The spirit of the Olympics is a wonderful thing. The coming together of athletes from all over the world in peace is definitely something beautiful to celebrate. It’s a shame that a major sporting event such as the Olympics is often tainted by less then desirable sponsors - it seems inappropriate that fast food giants and fizzy drink producers should sponsor fitness and sports and even more inappropriate nuclear and oil companies are sustainability partners of London 2012, the games whose ambition is to be the “most sustainable games to date”.
Yet despite the hypocrisy of London 2012, having Dow Chemicals produce a warp for the Olympic Stadium is a kick in the teeth. Dow Chemicals own 100% of Union Carbide, the US company responsible for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984, arguably the world’s worst environmental disaster. Dow Chemicals deny liabilities because a paltry out of court settlement was paid in 1989 by Union Carbide. Dow also claims that because it didn’t own Union Carbide in 1984 it cannot be liable for the disaster (but Dow does benefit from Union Carbide assets). Neither Union Carbide nor Dow Chemicals have remediated the contaminated area and deformed children continue to be born. There is also a second disaster, separate to the gas explosion, to do with ground water contamination which would have happened anyway, even if the gas explosion hadn’t taken place. So the settlement doesn’t absolve Dow Chemicals of its responsibilities. To date, thousands have died and thousands more continue to suffer chronical illness.
On 2nd December 2011, to mark the disaster’s 27th anniversary and to continue the campaign to get LOCOG to drop Dow Chemicals as a sponsor for 2012, a press conference was held at the Olympic site. Ken Livingston rightly called Dow’s money blood money. We also heard from Lorraine, a nurse who spent 6 months volunteering in Bhopal and from Farah, a Bhopali survivor. Farah’s plea to LOCOG to drop Dow as a sponsor really moved me. Later, she told me she was 3 miles away from the site and that saved her life. 3 miles, the difference between life and death, between a life well lived and a life spent in anguish.
LOCOG wake up. You don’t want London 2012’s legacy tarnished with Dow’s awful track record.