Indian Olympics Chief renews call for London 2012 to drop Dow

Indian Olympics Chief renews call for London 2012 to drop Dow

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has today renewed their demand for London 2012 organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reconsider The Dow Chemical Company as an official Olympic sponsor. The IOA have stated that the resignation of London Mayor Boris Johnson’s Sustainability Commissioner and Ethics Adviser Meredith Alexander had “vindicated” their argument that Dow were an inappropriate sponsor for the games.

Ms. Alexander appears live on the BBC's Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman to announce her resignation from the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012

Meredith Alexander quit the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 live on television this Wednesday, saying she did not want to be part of a body that “became an apologist” for Dow Chemicals. She also stated, in an interview with veteran BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman, that her resignation was based on her “standing up for her principles” and that she hoped it could bring some attention to the continuing plight of victims in Bhopal.

The Dow Chemical Company took over Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) in 2001, but neither company have addressed the ongoing issue of water and soil contamination in Bhopal that continues to kill thousands and afflict even more with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Lord Sebastian Coe, Chairman of LOCOG, has been criticised for endorsing and supporting Dow Chemical’s involvement with the London 2012 games.

Campaigners, including The Bhopal Medical Appeal and Amnesty International, have continually stated that Dow’s involvement is completely unacceptable whilst the company is still a named respondent in two court cases pertaining to the Bhopal disaster. Dow’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Union Carbide, is also involved in an ongoing US court case relating to the lethal contamination and UCC is still wanted on criminal charges in India. The Indian courts have stated that Dow is “harbouring fugitives from justice.”

Union Carbide's toxic waste was left behind in Bhopal, the company is now owned by Dow Chemicals, but no clean-up has ever taken place © JL / BMA

Ms. Alexanders resignation prompted IOA chief Vijay Kumar Malhotra to write to IOC president Jacques Rogge saying that the Olympics should not shoulder “this toxic legacy”.

He also wrote “the resignation of Ms. Alexander from the Games Ethics Committee – the Commission for Sustainable London 2012 – has vindicated IOA’s stand of opposing Dow’s sponsorship.”

He also cited, in his letter, the global opposition to the sponsorship deal but specifically mentioned the anger in the United Kingdom and India. Resistance to the deal is particularly fierce in Britain with cross-party coalitions of Members of Parliament, NGO’s, activists and celebrities now regularly condemning Dow and Lord Coe.

In a bold step Malhotra officially requested in his letter that Dow be removed as an official sponsor until the issues regarding it’s liability in Bhopal were resolved. “On behalf of the IOA I again urge you to take steps to remove Dow as a sponsor and settle the matter as early as possible.”

A petition started in the United Kingdom by Bhopal activists has now attracted nearly 20,000 signatures and Meredith Alexander’s resignation has seen a re-ignition of media attention over the issue. Last week, a Google news search for ‘Bhopal’ returned only a handful of results; but this week, over 1900 articles are currently available.

Campaigners are hopeful that Olympic officials will now appropriately engage with their concerns and that the sponsorship deal with Dow will be investigated and reconsidered. With 182 days to go until the start of the games, the debate over Dow and London 2012 is set to continue.

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