A toxic cloud over London 2012

Barry Gardiner MP calls for the London 2012 Olympic Games to drop Dow Chemical’s sponsorship until they accept responsibility for the Bhopal disaster.

Barry Gardiner MP (Labour, Brent North) is Chair of Labour Friends of India

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) have risked the international reputation of the Olympic Games and the legacy of London 2012 by awarding a major Olympic contract and partnership deal to Dow Chemicals, the company who still refuse to take responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, one of the worst industrial accidents of the twentieth century.

On the night of December 2nd 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate.

None of the six safety systems were operational or functional, allowing the gas to spread throughout the city of Bhopal.

Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 have died as a result of their exposure. More than 100,000 people still suffer ailments caused by the accident and the subsequent pollution at the plant state.

In 2001, Union Carbide was purchased by Dow Chemical Company. Dow denies responsibility for Union Carbide’s Bhopal liabilities and claims that a 1991 deal, which paid victims a derisory sum – £630  – equivalent to only 5 years medical cover, closed the matter.

The Indian government is in the middle of a $1 billion legal action against Dow, with another hearing for increased compensation expected in weeks at the Supreme Court.

Despite all this, in August LOCOG awarded Dow the contract to provide the Olympic stadium wrap, and the Olympic partnership status and advertising opportunities which go with it. This means Dow’s name will be writ large over the visual centrepiece of the Olympic Games in the run up to 2012.

When Dow accepted the award of the Olympic wrap, their UK managing director bragged about Dows “strong commitment to sustainability”. Their refusal to accept proper responsibility for the victims of Bhopal makes a mockery of that commitment.

In no sense does Dow meet the environmental, social and ethical standards demanded by LOCOGs own Sustainable Sourcing Code and I urge LOCOG to think again in order to protect the reputation of the Olympic legacy for Britain.

India’s friends in the House of Commons, including Labour Friends of India, will bring every pressure to bear on LOCOG, with a cross party campaign to support the victims of Bhopal, and stop another injustice being visited upon them.

See also:

How we sold off the right to protest to the one per centAlex Hern, November 3rd 2011

Boris fiddles as London prepares for transport chaosAlex Hern, October 19th 2011

Exposed: Boris Johnson’s efforts to evade air pollution rulesDarren Johnson AM, October 4th 2011

Government continues not being greenest everAlex Hern, October 3rd 2011

Is a ‘green populism’ possible, and can Labour help foster it?Guy Shrubsole, September 26th 2011

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