The International Olympic Committee‘s (IOC) did a sponsorship deal with Dow Chemical Company, which has bought Bhopal years ago, the company responsible for the tragedy of 1984 where more than 25 000 people were killed.
Sebastian Coe, chairman of the organizing committee does not want to back off.
India is threatening to boycott the Olympics next summer, because of one of the sponsors of the Games.
The sensational protest depends on a relatively small sponsorship, “just” £7 million in a total of over £700 million, promised by Dow Chemical, the giant industrial chemical that some years ago acquired the Union Carbide, the company responsible for the disastrous accident at the pesticide center in Bhopal, India, in 1984 in which 25 000 persons died and more than half a million intoxicated.
The threat of Indian athletes not to go to the 2012 London Olympics, would be a huge embarrassment for British authorities, not so much from a sporting perspective, since India – unlike America and Russia – do not generally excel in Olympic disciplines, but certainly from a political perspective, due to the weight of India, one of the world’s emerging powers. It will be a very awkward situations for two countries that share an important colonial past and a massive number of Indian citizens.
Lord Sebastian Coe, the former Olympic champion who now chairs the London 2012 Organising Committee, has only a week to solve the problem in one way or another. Former British Sports Minister, the Labour MP Tessa Jowell, asked Coe to delete the agreement with Dow Chemical.
The PM of Madhya Pradesh, the Indian state of which Bhopal is the capital, has solicited that New Delhi government formally support the request of the Olympic team to boycott the Games if IOC does not change its mind: “Those £ 7 million would be spent best to alleviate the suffering of our people, “he said.
The Dow Chemical Company says that the $ 470 million paid by Union Carbide in 1991 to compensate victims of the tragedy have already solved any dispute, although there still is a trail going on at the Indian Supreme Court.
Dow precised that they have bought, Union Carbide only in 2001, so many years after the accident. But other criticisms still weigh on sponsorship because the Dow is also the manufacturer of Agent Orange, the defoliant used by U.S. bombing during the war in the Vietnam, with devastating effects for the civilian population.