Every four years, the Olympic Games are a source of excitement throughout the world. Even the Olympic team trials can be a real thrill. When Eugene, Oregon, aka TrackTown USA, had the chance to host Olympic team trials in July, the whole town buzzed with enthusiasm.
But now that more than two months have passed since the Summer Olympic Games in Rio took place, the enthusiasm has pretty much died down. This is especially true for the hundreds of freelance workers who still have not been paid for their contribution to the Olympics.
These workers include several hundred employees who worked for the Olympic News Service, creating written athletic summaries about the Olympics and Paralympics. In addition, there are nearly 100 freelance contractors who worked as show producers, DJs, and stadium announcers who remain unpaid.
Now, these workers are threatening to sue the Rio organization community in order to get the money they’re owed.
Rocky Bester, a South African show producer who serves as the spokesman for the freelance workers, states that he’s never experienced a problem working for the Olympics before. This year’s games in Rio marks Bester’s seventh. In previous games, Bester states that there’s always been an open conversation about payments. This time, all they’ve been met with is total silence.
Bester adds that it shows “a basic lack of respect” and further illustrates the issues countless freelancers face when receiving compensation for their work. Although more freelancers report securing work in the first place to be their biggest challenge, late payment is usually a bigger problem for freelancers than those in more secure employment situations.
Rio Olympics officials continue to pass the buck on the issue, blaming their own sponsors for late payments. Rio spokesman Mario Andrada stated that “we are paying, but not all the money we need for payments has been received. We are struggling a bit in making the ends meet.”
Of course, the same can be said for the workers who have yet to receive their due. According to Bester, many are living off credit cards and are running up high-interest debts as a result. Though some have been paid a portion of what they are owed, others have received nothing at all. Further, some contractors were held responsible for purchasing their own airline travel tickets and have yet to be reimbursed. Some of those who have been reimbursed express that the amounts they’ve been paid don’t match up with what they’re actually owed.
Though some payment delays may be attributed to a month-long bank strike in Brazil, cash flow was an issue for Rio even before the Olympics began. Budgetary cuts and high costs have plagued the Games’ organizers. They even required a hefty bailout from both the city and federal governments, thus breaking a promise they made to use only private money towards the $2.8 million operating budget. Currently, Rio owes an estimated $32 million to creditors as a result of the Games.
Spokesman Andrada stresses that “the trouble is the delay” and that those who are owed compensation will be paid. But many freelancers have heard such statements too many times. Though conducting business on an international level can be much more complicated for freelancers, this just illustrates why it’s so imperative to get everything in writing.