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Winter Olympics: Lord Coe speaks out on workers’ welfare and gay rights at Sochi Games [Russia]

Author: Janet Tappin Coelho, The Independent, Published on: 19 October 2013

As work on the Russian Olympic Stadium for the 2014 Winter Games in...Sochi draws to a close, Sebastian Coe has added his voice to the growing controversy over the exploitation of the migrant workers who have helped to build the stadium and associated buildings. “Welfare of the workers is paramount. Even while we want sporting events to be delivered to the very highest standard...workers’ welfare must be recognised and we have to create a climate where this is seen to be very important,” the chairman of the British Olympic Association told The Independent...By signalling that those in charge of the world’s sporting events have a joint duty of care and responsibility to ensure that no excuses or exceptions are used to undermine the welfare, health and safety of construction labourers, Coe becomes one of the most senior sporting figures to speak out on the subject. Charges of systematic abuse of migrant workers and violations of their human rights have dogged the preparations for the Winter Games...The Russian authorities are accused by Human Rights Watch of arresting and holding migrant workers in “arbitrary and inhumane conditions” based on spurious breaches of employment regulations. An estimated 16,000 foreign labourers have been working on the construction of the Olympic facilities...Human Rights Watch says many workers reported employers confiscating their passports, cheating them out of wages and demanding 12-hour shifts with few days off.

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