India Olympics boycott call over Dow Bhopal links

A computer generated image of how the wrap will look

The Dow Chemicals-sponsored wrap will go up around the stadium in early 2012

An Indian chief minister has called for a boycott of the London 2012 Olympics if the sponsorship of the Dow Chemical company continues.

Shivraj Singh Chauhan made the call in a letter to Sports Minister Ajay Maken.

Dow has links to the firm behind the Bhopal gas disaster in 1984 that led to thousands of deaths but says the case is now settled. It is to create a fabric wrap for the Olympic stadium.

Mr Singh is chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, where Bhopal is located.

In his letter, he said it was not appropriate for a company linked to such a tragedy to be allowed to sponsor an event “considered as an ultimate expression of fair play, honesty and healthy endeavour”.

Mr Singh said litigation to which the Indian government was still a party had yet to be resolved and that Dow’s sponsorship funds would be better spent helping those who have suffered in the wake of the disaster.

The sports ministry has not yet responded.

At least five victims’ groups have also demanded the sponsorship deal be scrapped.

In 1999, Dow merged with the Union Carbide Corporation, whose subsidiary Union Carbide India ran the Bhopal pesticide plant.

Bhopal’s Death Toll

Men carry children blinded by the gas leak in Bhopal. Photo: December 1984
  • Initial deaths (3-6 December): more than 3,000 – official toll
  • Unofficial initial toll: 7,000-8,000
  • Total deaths to date: over 15,000
  • Number affected: Nearly 600,000
  • Compensation: Union Carbide pays $470m in 1989

Source: Indian Supreme Court, Madhya Pradesh government, Indian Council of Medical Research

The gas leak was one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.

The Indian government says more than 3,000 people died within days of the leak.

It says that more than 15,000 have died since then.

Campaigners say the death toll is as high as 25,000 and that the effects of the leak continue to this day.

Dow has said in the past that its $470m (£288m) settlement for those affected by the tragedy was fair and final.

Dow insists that while the past must never be forgotten, its “position as a Worldwide Olympic Partner” represents its “vision for the future”.

Dow has said that although it “never owned nor operated the [Bhopal] plant and the legal claims surrounding the incident were resolved in 1989, long before Dow acquired Union Carbide, we – along with the rest of industry – have learned from this tragic event and have helped to drive global industry performance improvements to ensure that such incidents never happen again”.

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe has defended Dow’s role, saying he was satisfied, “that at no time did Dow operate, own or were involved with the plant either at the time of the [1984] disaster or crucially at the time of the full and final settlement”.

Dow, the world’s second largest chemical manufacturer, will be allowed to advertise on the 336 panels on the new stadium wrap, until a month before the Games open next year.

Source: BBC India

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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.