Saturday, 26 November 2011

Indian Anger at Dow 2012 Deal

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.No advertising

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

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".

It had earlier been reported that Dow, the world's second largest chemical manufacturer, would be allowed to advertise on the 336 panels of the new stadium wrap.

However, a London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games spokesman told the BBC on Thursday that, although Dow would fund and make the fabric wrap, it would not be allowed to advertise on the panels.

Under strict IOC "clean venue" rules no company is allowed to advertise during the period of the Games.

Dow is one of 11 Worldwide Olympic Partners, in a list that also includes Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Samsung, Panasonic and Visa.

Bhopal's Death Toll
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