Opposition is growing to London 2012 sponsor Dow Chemical, owners of Union Carbide, the company responsible for the Bhopal gas leak in which thousands died.
However a cross-party coalition of MPs, survivors of the Bhopal disaster, and Indian Olympians has launched a campaign against the decision taken by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG).
In 2001, Dow bought the company Union Carbide Corporation, which was responsible for the gas leak in Bhopal, India, in 1984 – the world’s worst industrial disaster.
Thousands of people died and tens of thousands were injured as a result of exposure to poisonous gas from the Union Carbide factory. Health and human rights groups in Bhopal continue to report high rates of congenital deformities and cancers among families who are forced to use contaminated groundwater sources.
Claims were ‘resolved’
However Dow maintains that it acquired Union Carbide long after the disaster and that legal claims were resolved after Union Carbide paid $470m as compensation.
The contract with Dow must be set right. If not, LOCOG risk tarnishing the London 2012 brand. Barry Gardiner MP, Chair of Labour Friends of India
The International Olympic Committee also defended its decision, saying that it only enters into partnerships that is believes work in accordance with Olympic values. “Dow is a global leader in its field of business and is committed to good corporate citizenship,” it said in a statement.
“The company [Dow] has supported the Olympic Movement for over thirty years, providing financial support and bringing industry-leading expertise and innovation to the Games.”
‘Risk’ to the Olympic brand
Leading the campaign against Dow, Barry Gardiner MP, Chair of Labour Friends of India, acknowledged that the Olympic organising committee had set high environmental, social and ethical standards. “However, the contract with Dow is a mistake and it must be set right. If not, LOCOG risk tarnishing the London 2012 brand,” said Mr Gardiner.
At least 21 Indian Olympians also sent a letter to the LOCOG, urging it to scrap the sponsorship deal with Dow. They said that considering the long-term effects of the gas leak on victims and the environment, Dow’s sponsorship is “offensive to the spirit of the Olympic Games”.
Speaking for the Dow Chemical Company, Scott Walker acknowledged that the 1984 Bhopal disaster was a tragedy “that none of us in the industry will ever forget,” but insisted that Dow was not responsible.
“Dow never owned or operated the facility in Bhopal. Dow acquired the shares of Union Carbide Corporation more than 16 years after the tragedy, and 10 years after the $470m settlement agreement – paid by Union Carbide Corporation and Union Carbide India, Limited – was approved by the Indian Supreme Court.”