The International Olympic Committee has called on the Indian Olympic Association to reject any considerations of a possible boycott of the London 2012 Olympic Games, saying such action would only hurt the athletes.
This comes as the former Minister for Sport and Locog board member Tessa Jowell called for Dow Chemicals to withdraw its £7 million sponsorship of the London Olympic stadium wrap because it “was inappropriate”.
Telegraph Sport revealed today that the Indian Olympic Association is to hold a meeting on December 5 to specifically consider whether to attend the London Olympics in the wake of Dow Chemicals sponsoring the contentious wrap.
Dow Chemicals is the owner of Union Carbide which was responsible for the Bhopal chemical disaster which continues to cause thousands of deaths and which is still subject to legal dispute over compensation and remediation of the land. Indians are upset that Dow is sponsoring the wrap and promoting it as a sustainable product when serious land contamination and compensation issues remain in connection with Bhopal, 27 years after the disaster.
“The IOC has seen media reports that some Indian athletes have raised concerns over Dow’s sponsorship, and we understand from the National Olympic Committee that they would of course be willing to discuss any concerns with their athletes,” the IOC said in a statement.
“However, reports of a boycott of the Games are not accurate.
“The IOC would of course oppose a boycott, as ultimately the only people hurt by actions like these would be the athletes themselves.”
The Indian Olympic officials told Telegraph Sport that a petition signed by 21 of its Olympic athletes wanting to withdraw the Indian team from the London Olympics and a call for a boycott by the Bhopal politician Shivraj Singh Chauhan had forced the association to call a meeting to vote on the issue.
“Many Olympic athletes have expressed concern about it and they are upset that Dow is sponsoring the London Olympics and they want to boycott,” V K Malhotra, the acting president of the Indian Olympic Association told Telegraph Sport.
“We will be meeting in 10 days to sit down together and decide what to do.”
Malhotra would not be drawn on the likely outcome of such a meeting, but hinted that any decision may be influenced by the government’s position. He said India had not boycotted an Olympic Games before.
“The government has not expressed a voice and I don’t want to give an impression before the meeting,” he said.
The IOC said it continued to support Dow, which is one of its global sponsors.
“The IOC recognises that the Union Carbide Bhopal Gas disaster in 1984 was a very tragic event,” the statement said.
” The IOC understands that Dow never owned or operated the facility in Bhopal, and that the State Government of Madhya Pradesh owns and controls the former plant site.
“Dow is a global leader in its field of business and is committed to good corporate citizenship. The company has supported the Olympic Movement for over thirty years, providing financial support and bringing industry-leading expertise and innovation to the Games.”
But Jowell said the reputation of the London Olympics was at risk if Dow continued with its sponsorship of the wrap.
“Everyone wants to protect the Games from reputational issues, but people remember Bhopal and the terrible suffering that emanated from that, following on from that this sponsorship is inappropriate when you take it in the broader context,” she said.
“The best resolution is for Dow to withdraw from the sponsorship of the wrap. This is not a criticism of Locog who took a decision bounded by choosing the most sustainable option for the wrap.”
When asked about the consequences of an Indian boycott Jowell said;” lets hope that a boycott is not their decision”.
Earlier this week at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee the Locog chief executive Paul Deighton was asked if there was enough time to look for an alternative wrap sponsor.
He replied: “It is getting very late. That is, of course, a matter for Dow if they would choose to pull out, and I do not see that they believe that is something they are likely to do.”
Locog chairman Sebastian Coe told the committee that Dow had “met by some distance” environmental, ethical and social points”.
Photo: Courtesy AP
Source: The Telegraph