By Duncan Mackay

Maracana Stadium strike February 18 2013February 18 - Maracanã Stadium construction workers today downed tools and threatened to strike as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission began its fourth visit to Rio de Janeiro to inspect preparations for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics. 

The workers, who are demanding a wage increase, meal vouchers and private health insurance for their families, staged a one-day stoppage and threatened to call a longer strike next week if their demands are not met.

The latest delay in the $458 million reconstruction of the Maracanã, which is due to host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies when Rio becomes the first South American city to host the Olympics and Paralympics, will have more impact on officials preparing for the 2014 FIFA World Cup than Games organisers as it is due to be the centrepiece of their tournament, including hosting the final.

But it will do little to allay growing fears among senior IOC officials that preparations for Rio 2016 are beginning to get so far behind that the situation is fast becoming critical.

The issue was a hot topic during the IOC Executive Board meeting in Lausanne last week, with a number of leading members voicing their concerns that the time was coming close to President Jacques Rogge having to issue a "yellow card" in the same way that his predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch did when Athens fell behind in their preparations for the 2004 Olympics and Paralympics.

"I told him: 'First thing you have to give is a strong warning and you only can do that as President of the IOC because your voice will carry much further than any other,'" said Rogge, who had been head of the Coordination Commission for Athens 2004.

"The same would happen in Rio if things were of such a nature that they were needed.

"I hope this is not going to be the case.

"I am confident that with the new steps that have been taken by the Organising Committee, this will not be needed."

IOC Coordination Commission visit to Rio February 18 2013 2Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes prepares to address the IOC Coordination Commission as it begins its fourth visit to the city as preparations continue for the 2016 Olympics

Olympic organisers have always claimed that the 2014 World Cup would be the perfect test event for Rio 2016 but all it is doing at the moment is highlighting the potential of what could go wrong.

The Maracanã is due to reopen for a friendly between Brazil and England on June 2 and stage its first competitive match, the Confederations Cup tie between Mexico and Italy, on June 16.

But work has already overshot the original deadline of December 31 and construction crews are having work around the clock to try to catch-up.

Four of the six stadiums to be used for the Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, are still not finished.

The IOC Coordination Commission, which is chaired by Morocco's Nawal El Moutawakel, is due to have three days of meetings with Rio 2016 officials and also visit a number of venues.

Rio 2016 will be keen to show that they are making progress but that will be measured by how advanced London 2012 were at a similar stage.

Most notably construction on the Olympic Park in Rio is several months behind where London 2012 was at the same schedule.

The Coordination Commission, which includes for the first time Jackie Brock-Doyle, the communications director of London 2012, will also be seeking clarification on the venues for rugby sevens and hockey, which still have to be announced, and continuing legal disputes concerning the golf course. 

"Over the next three days, we look forward to understanding precisely your level of preparation and your action plans for the coming months," said El Moutawakel.

"You can count on the full support of all the members of the Commission and their long and diverse experience in their respective fields, in terms of organising the Olympic Games.

"With only 180 Mondays to go, the Games are fast approaching and we are all looking forward to experiencing the Olympic Games with a Carioca twist.

"Before then though, a lot of hard work remains."

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