Protesters hinder construction at beach volleyball venue

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The Independent Online

More than 100 protesters frustrated police and disrupted work on the Olympic beach volleyball venue on Bondi Beach, forcing further delays to the scheduled start of construction.

Almost 100 New South Wales state police moved onto the beach and had apprehended two protesters who were hindering the erection of temporary fencing around the proposed construction site.

Light early rain cleared as dozens of demonstrators sat in front of earth-moving equipment, refusing to move. The gray skies over one of Australia's most famous beaches threatened more rain later Monday.

Builders moved onto the beach just after 7 a.m. local time (2100 GMT Sunday), had installed temporary barricades around the site and blocked off a promenade adjacent to the beach within two hours.

The Olympic Coordination Authority, which is responsible for the building and management of all Olympic venues, was waiting to move in with bulldozers.

The protesters, led by the residents group Bondi Olympic Watch, vowed to continue impeding work until the Sept. 15 Olympic opening ceremony if necessary.

BOW spokesman Lenny Kovnar, who was apprehended by police early in the morning but released without charge, said the number of police on the beach was an aggressive show of force and a waste of taxpayers' money.

"This is just the first battle in what's going to be a long and drawn out war," he said.

BOW members calling themselves Bondi Warriors have threatened to bury themselves neck-deep in sand and strap themselves to construction equipment to prevent work from starting.

Protesters are demonstrating against possible environmental damage to the beach, lack of access plus public safety concerns during construction.

The OCA was scheduled to start work on the 10,000 seat temporary stadium on May 1 but delayed the start to avoid clashes with protesters.

A spokesman for the Sydney organizing committee, SOCOG, said initial works had already started on the beach and a 1 million Australian dollars ($596,000) refurbishment of the existing Pavilion was almost complete.

The temporary stadium would be built, used and dismantled within six months, SOCOG venue manager Jackie Murdoch said.

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