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As if there wasn't enough controversy already emerging from the first few days of Tarragona's Mediterranean Games, Tuesday saw yet another scandal to add to the chapter of accidents: a strike by international wrestling referees. The referees says that the accommodation and meal allowances that were agreed have not been paid to them.

In spite of not having received their payments, the wrestling referees decided to carry out their sporting duties on the first day of their competition, but on Tuesday they decided to put a foot down. This caused the timetable for wrestling matches to be disrupted and even come to a complete standstill at times. In general, only one of the two wrestling rings at the Vila-seca Pavilion was in use, causing major delays in the planned programme.

Speaking to Catalan public television channel TV3, Italian referee Edith Doja complained that the wrestling officials had been forgotten by the Games organization, as ever since they arrived in Tarragona, five days ago, "nobody has taken us into consideration". The Italian referee was concerned because, with the competition calendar more than half way through, they had not yet received a solution or even any information about the meal and accommodation allowances.

So far, referees are covering expenses out of their own pockets, about 60 euros per day, in the hope that they will eventually be reimbursed. The Games organization has assured that it is a "misunderstanding" which they will attempt to resolve as soon as possible.

The problem could be the result of a change of criteria on the question of who is to cover these expenses. At former editions of the quadrennial Games, the organizing committee was responsible for paying the referees' allowances. For this year's Tarragona celebration, however, it was decided that each country's Olympic committee would meet the costs for its own referees. In theory, all countries had been informed of this decision, but something has gone wrong, leaving several wrestling officials in the lurch.

One thing after another

In any case, the referees' strike is just the latest in a series of incidents and organisational disasters connected to this 18th celebration of the Mediterranean Games in the southern Catalan city of Tarragona. The gravest mishap was a hit-and-run accident in which a five-year-old boy was run down by an official Games car and seriously injured. Although the driver fled the scene, the Games logo on the car and witness testimonies allowed the identification of the vehicle as well as the driver, who was found to have a blood-alcohol level that tripled the legal limit.

The Games have also left a number of other sights ranging from the ridiculous to the regrettable, beginning with the Opening Ceremony marked by its empty stadium seats, political tension and questionable cultural programming. On Monday an “error of protocol” meant that French national anthem La Marseillaise was not played at a medal presentation ceremony and the French supporters in the sparse audience had to improvise their own national anthem (see video). On Tuesday morning, another medal ceremony was improvised when the swimmers at the women's 400 metres freestyle event had to award the medals to one another since no authorities were present to make the presentation.