The Indian Olympics Association has backed down from a proposed boycott of the 2012 Games over chemical company Dow’s sponsorship of the stadium’s wrap.
The sponsorship deal, announced earlier this year, caused some consternation over whether it tallied with the environmental and ethical message the Olympics was striving to maintain. The 1984 Union Carbide chemical leak in Bhopal was one of the world’s worst industrial disasters and although the company was only later acquired by Dow, their very visible inclusion in the list of Olympic sponsors has provoked anger amongst campaigners and politicians alike. Dave Hill’s London Blog examines the questions being raised over the bidding process in more detail.
The Dow deal will have been a bitter pill for Indian athletes and politicians alike to swallow; the Indian government says that more than 15,000 people have died as a result of the chemical leak and ground water in the region remains contaminated. Although compensation was paid by the company in 1989, further attempts to seek financial redress have failed. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) advised against a boycott on the basis that only the Indian athletes would suffer, an assertion which although doubtless true doesn’t say much for the power of protest. VK Malhotra of the Indian opposition party Bharatiya Janata said:
‘There is no question of India boycotting the London Olympics. We are not boycotting Olympic Games and that is very clear on Indian Olympic Association’s part. But we want to express in black and white that there has been opposition in the country with the London Games being associated with Dow Chemical. We have to take account of their sentiments.’
Ken Livingstone has added his voice to calls for the deal to be scrapped:
‘The soul of the London Games is worth much more than 0.08% of its budget. It would be far better to do this than to allow Dow Chemicals to exploit an opportunity that has been paid for by people in London and across the whole country.’
London Assembly member Darren Johnson questioned Boris Johnson over the the deal in October and received the somewhat evasive response that ‘it would not be appropriate to comment while this is in the courts.’ Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North, also campaigns against the deal along with a variety of supporters including Amnesty International. Dow, however, disputes its liability and passes responsibility to the Indian state government while publicly polishing its Olympic credentials:
‘Regarding Bhopal, the 1984 Union Carbide Bhopal incident was a terrible tragedy that none of us in the industry will ever forget. However, it is disappointing that some people are trying to assign blame and responsibility to Dow.
Today, the state government of Madhya Pradesh owns and controls the site and is in the best position, and has the authority under the direction of the courts, to complete whatever remediation may be necessary and to make the right decisions for Bhopal.’