Olympic Organisers should not take Dow Chemical money

Congratulations to Meredith Alexander for resigning as a member of the 13 strong Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 over the £7 million sponsorship from Dow Chemicals to install a wrap around the Olympic stadium. Head of Trade and Corporates at Action Aid, Meredith opposes taking money from a company which is not discharging its responsibilities relating to the Bhopal disaster.

While I understand the motives for LOGOC – the London Olympic Games Organising Committee – taking Dow Chemical money, those accepting commercial sponsorship should always be aware of where the money comes from. However strapped for cash an organisation may be, this never justifies taking funding from tainted undertakings.

This is a non-negotiable principle, and a principle that must be rigorously upheld when it comes to major national projects. However much in need of cash the London Olympic Games may be, those in charge should never have had anything to do with Dow Chemicals.

And Dow has a lot to answer for – somewhere in the region of 20,000 deaths and thousands more serious injuries resulting from the disaster at Bhopal in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh in 1984. True it was Union Carbide not Dow who owned the plant at the time, but once Dow took over Union Carbide in 1999 it also took over this responsibility.

Despite Dow’s claims that the Indian Government accepted a £300 million payment in final settlement of any obligations, there is ample evidence that the tragedy has not come to an end.

In December last year Lorraine Chase, a 29 year old nurse, who has worked at Bhopal, told the Guardian “The mistake people make by continuing to say that this is about an explosion in December 1984. It’s about contamination that’s happening today.”

Toxic sludge was dumped in pits, on top of plastic sheets, in an attempt to cleanse it through evaporation. Instead the chemical leached into the ground water. The pits and the sludge are still there and the water is still used for drinking and washing by people for whom government supplies of water are unreliable. Chase says, “People know the water tastes funny, they know it isn’t doing them any good, but they don’t have a choice. And absolutely nothing is being done.”

Dow Chemicals apparently continually maintain that this appalling state of affairs is nothing to do with them.

I really do not understand how LOGOC can take money from a company which has so little regard for human life.

Strong supporter of the London Olympics that I am, I ask LOGOC to think again. Other sponsors will come forward once the word gets out. A wrap around a sporting stadium is not worth even the smallest amount of human suffering let alone bringing continuing tragedy to thousands of very poor people who have already been through more than most of us could even imagine.

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