Olympic stadium sponsorship condemned

Rally against Dow in Mumbai, 2002 pic: Ascanio

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has condemned the London Olympics Committee accepting sponsorship from a company criticised for not giving enough compensation to victims of the Bhopal disaster.

According to Lutfur Rahman, Dow Chemical “bares some responsibility for the continuing suffering” following the disaster in 1984.

Thousands were killed as a result of the explosion at the pesticide plant in Bhopal, central India and over 500,000 were injured, a 2006 Indian Supreme Court affadavit filed by the government revealed. The plant was then owed by Union Carbide Corporation, which was bought by US transnational company Dow in 2001.

The majority of Bhopal victims and activists now hold Dow responsible, although Union Carbide settled its liabilities with the Indian government in 1989 by paying over £300m in compensation.

Following a competitive sponsorship round by LOCOG, Dow is set to be given a prominent place emblazoned on the fabric wrapping the Olympic stadium. The wrap would consist of 336 individual panels around the stadium, which LOCOG say will help make it “a visual centrepiece.”

Rahman has written an open letter to Lord Coe, expressing his displeasure with the sponsorship and asking him to reconsider the move.

In the letter, he said: “I find it difficult to believe that LOCOG could have gone ahead with this extremely insensitive decision. I also believe that there is still time for Lord Coe to take a stand.

Reacting to the criticism of the sponsorship, LOCOG said: “We asked Dow for and received a full briefing on the history of the 1984 Union Carbide Bhopal Gas tragedy and details of ongoing actions. From this briefing we have confirmed: Dow never owned or operated the facility in Bhopal and remediation is under the control of the courts in India. The 1989 settlement was agreed before Dow’s involvement with Union Carbide.”

The 1989 settlement has been challenged twice in the Indian Supreme Court and both times the settlement was deemed to be appropriate.

A Dow spokesperson told EastLondonLines: “While it is understandable that human emotions evoked by the tragedy remain, allowing a misrepresentation of facts and to rewrite history – as some are trying to do – is not only wrong but sends an unfortunate and inaccurate message that obscures rather than clarifies the Bhopal tragedy.”

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