The government had expressed its reservations against Dow Chemical as sponsor of the London Games and had requested the organizers to drop them from the upcoming event.
US-based Dow is the parent company of Union Carbide, whose pesticide plant leaked gas into the central city of Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh in 1984, killing tens of thousands of people.
Rahul Bhatnagar, joint secretary, sports ministry, sent a letter “on behalf of the government of India” to International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacques Rogge, saying: “The Government of India would… strongly urge the IOC to go beyond lesser considerations, and in the larger interest of the ideals of human rights, compassion and solidarity… (and) immediately take steps to cancel the sponsorship of Dow Chemicals for the London Olympics.”
In the letter, Bhatnagar has reiterated India’s stand on Dow Chemicals. “You are no doubt aware that Dow Chemicals is the successor company of Union Carbide, which was responsible for the unprecedented and large scale human tragedy which occurred in 1984 in Bhopal (in the state of Madhya Pradesh).
For Dow Chemicals to be engaged as an official sponsor for an event like the London Olympics 20l2 by IOC/LOCOG is extremely distressing, considering the fact that this company is linked with an event in which thousands of innocent lives were lost and an even larger number of people were incapacitated for life and for whom even now, everyday is a struggle for survival.”
Interestingly, the issue gained international colour too when Meredith Alexander, a commissioner of the sustainability watchdog for the 2012 Games resigned in protest against the same issue.
Alexander said she was stepping down from her unpaid position.“I don’t want to be party to a defence of Dow Chemicals, the company responsible for one of the worst corporate human rights violations in my generation,” Alexander said in a statement.
The London organizers ignored India’s concern for long, not even bothering to reply to official letters being sent to them.
But finally the organizers came out in support of Dow Chemicals and announced that they will remain the sponsors of the 2012 London Olympics.
It came as a rude shock for not only the Indian government but also millions of Indian people for whom the memory of the Bhopal tragedy is still fresh.
Both the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Indian government are thus put in a fix. There has been a growing demand in the country for withdrawing from the London Games as a mark of protest. But the IOA is having second thoughts only for the athletes.
All athletes throughout the world prepare and dream about participating in the Olympics. Missing out on one Olympics means four-year’s of toil going to waste. The IOA is thus forced to look into the issue with sympathy.
Although the government has not yet taken a call on the issue of boycotting the Games, it seems the IOA is unlikely to suggest to the government to opt for the extreme step as of now.
What the IOA is planning now is taking part in the meet under some protest. However, both the form and nature of the protest are yet to be decided. With lots of Indians living in England, any major step taken by the Indian contingent to the Olympics will likely to have strong impact during the Games also.
It can thus be a hot summer for the London Games this time.