Bhopal Special Olympics 26th July 2012

As the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games was unveiled yesterday in London, the controversy surrounding the choice of Olympic sponsors continues to cast its shadow over the event. While for months now the British public have been bombarded with everything Olympian and the patriotic sentiment the Games supposedly evoke, the situation in Bhopal tells a somewhat different story.

Dow Chemical Company, a key sponsor of the London Games own Union Carbide, the company responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas leak which has caused the deaths of 25,000 people over the past 27 years. Today in Bhopal, 120,000–150,000 survivors of the disaster are still chronically ill, the factory site has not been cleaned up and second and third generations of victims are being born with congenital deformities.

 Dow Olympic Sponsorship Bhopal

The ‘jhadu’ broom march imitating the Olympic torch relay ©Sanjay Verma

On Thursday 26th July 2012 Bhopal held its own Special Olympics. The games, held in a stadium directly behind the abandoned Union Carbide factory, featured children born with psychological and physical deformities as a result of the ongoing gas and water contamination in Bhopal.

The Bhopal Special Olympics were kicked off with an opening ceremony mimicking Danny Boyle’s London version, however in Bhopal the focus was what the British should be ashamed of- titled ‘From the East India Company to Dow Chemical Company’. A broom march featuring ‘Jhadu’ brooms imitated the Olympic torch relay, and the brooms were waved around freely to indicate that Dow should clean up the factory.

Dow Olympic Sponsorship Bhopal

Participants in the 25m assisted walking race ©Sanjay Verma

Forty-five children from the Chingari Trust Rehabilitation Centre took part in the Special Olympics. Activities included wheelchair racing, crabwalk racing, assisted walking, softball throwing and football. The event attracted quite a crowd, many media crews were present and the stands were full of spectators.

Dow Olympic Sponsorship Bhopal

25m wheelcahir race ©Sanjay Verma

All participants received a distinctive ‘Bhopal Special Olympics’ medal.

 Dow Olympic Sponsorship Bhopal

Participants with their Bhopal Special Olympics medals ©Sanjay Verma

An opening song and dance were both focused on Britain’s past atrocities in India and the support extended to Dow Chemical Company by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who in March 2012 maintained Dow’s rhetoric that Dow Chemical didn’t own Union Carbide at the time of the disaster. Campaigners from the around the world have protesting against the Dow sponsorship since it was announced in August 2010.

 Dow Olympic Sponsorship Bhopal

The girls 25m sprint race ©Sanjay Verma

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We believe Dow must finally accept responsibility for Bhopal. Until then, The Bhopal Medical Appeal funds two award-winning clinics in the city. Both offer free, first-class care to victims of the gas disaster or the ongoing water contamination. The survivors have nowhere else left to turn – please help if you can.