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December 08 2011

Opposition to Dow Olympic stadium wrap deal crosses international and political boundaries

Since I lasted posted about the row over London 2012's organisers controversially awarding the Olympic stadium wrap sponsorship deal to Dow Chemical, the Indian government has urged the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to make its displeasure known to Seb and Co, and Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Commttee chairman, has joined Coe and Boris Johnson in echoing Dow's line of defence - that in 1984 it wasn't involved with the company that owned and ran the chemical plant in Bhopal that leaked catastrophically in that year, leading to the deaths of thousands of people.

Anti-Dow ampaigners, of course, think otherwise. They believe that when Dow bought Union Carbide, the firm that did own and run the plant at the time, it also also inherited an obligation to put right the enduring environmental damage the disaster did to Bhopal and its people, up to 25,000 of whom they claim have died as result of it. The IOA has ruled out a boycott by India's athletes, but has noted that pressure for the Dow deal to be dropped has acquired an international dimension. And among London politicians it has also become a bit of a cross-party issue.

Last Friday, marking the disaster's 27th anniversary, a letter organised by Barry Gardiner MP (Brent North) and Labour Friends of India was sent to Coe urging him to review the decision. As you'd expect, most of its signatories were Labourites, including the party's mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone and former Olympics minister Tessa Jowell MP. But it was also signed by senior Lib Dem Simon Hughes MP (Bermondsey), and by four Conservatives members of the Commons including Bob Blackman (Harrow East) and that famously green Tory Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park and North Kingston). Others who put their names to letter included academic Noam Chomsky, actor Martin Sheen, artist Antony Gormley and TV personality Nancy Dell'Olio.

At a press conference held beside the stadium a spokesperson for the Bhopal Medical Appeal said that responsibility for Bhopal and its legacy was being "shifted to the Indian state," by Dow and that "that's what LOCOG is supporting when it supports Dow's statements unquestioningly."

Livingstone accused to Dow of using "every legal manoeuvre to avoid honouring its obligations" and said he didn't want the Olympic stadium becoming "the target of protestors," urging LOCOG to change its position in order to pre-empt this. He added that if elected next May, two months before the start of the games, he would be "looking for a legal challenge to try and drop Dow Chemical" and in the meantime would be "writing personally to Seb Coe to say I think this is a catastrophic error and it isn't going to go away."

He's not far wrong, I'd say. Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham, the Olympic host borough in which the stadium stands, is another (Labour) politician to come out against the Dow deal. So has his independent Tower Hamlets counterpart Lutfur Rahman. For more on the issue, catch up with top London blogger and Sunday Express correspondent Ted Jeory's trail blazing coverage, which has now taken him to Bhopal itself. See here and here and here. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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