British Prime Minister David Cameron said it "would be desperately sad" if India boycotted the London Olympics over the Dow Chemical sponsorship but stressed the Indians had to make up their own mind. He was responding to a question on whether India should boycott olympic games. Earlier reaffirming its stand, the International Olympic Committee rejected calls from the Indian government to drop Dow Chemical as sponsor of the London Games because of its links to the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. Pere Miro, director, NOC Relations, IOC wrote "I am writing to you in reference to your letter dated February 24, 2012 concerning the IOC's and LOCOG's partnerships with Dow. The IOC recognises that the Bhopal tragedy in 1984 was a horrific event for India and the world. The Olympic Movement sympathises with the grief of the victims' families, and regrets the ongoing suffering people face in the region. "Dow is a global leader in its field of business and is committed to good corporate citizenship. We thank you for your letter, understand your concerns and appreciate the difficult situation you are facing in your country. "The Dow did not have any ownership stake in Union Carbide until 16 years after the accident and 12 years after the $ 470 million compensation agreement was approved by the Indian Supreme Court. The court has upheld that agreement twice since in 1991 and 2007. We understand that this is being reviewed yet a third time by the Indian Supreme Court, and are aware of Dow's position in this matter, and of the sensitivities of all parties," the letter said. Sports minister Ajay Maken had said that the athletes will play a vital role in deciding whether India will boycott the London Olympic Games if the IOC refuses to drop Dow Chemicals as a sponsor of the event.
Dow's Commercial interest
Dow Chemical Co. has acquired Union Carbide Corp. for $8.89 billion (8.32 billion euros) in 2000. Dow's diversified industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agro sciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high growth sectors such as electronics, water, energy, coatings and agriculture. In 2011, Dow had annual sales of $60 billion and employed approximately 52,000 people worldwide. The Company's more than 5,000 products are manufactured at 197 sites in 36 countries across the globe.
The Dow Chemical company has recently announced that it will be removing its logo from the Olympic Stadium present in London after there was strong and prolonged opposition from the Indian community. From building materials to artificial turf, Dow's technology is prevalent in the infrastructure for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Even though Dow announced in 2010 its plans to sponsor the Games, much of the work in London was well under way or, in some cases, already complete, said George Hamilton, Dow's vice president of Olympic operations. Roofing and flooring systems at the Olympic stadiums, sports complexes, and Olympic Village, which houses Olympic athletes, coaches and other key figures, contains Dow building and construction technology, Hamilton said, and the facility used to house all news media utilizes much of Dow's electronics and entertainment technology, including the company's wires and cables. Hamilton said that it had bought the assets of Union Carbide, the company that owned the Bhopal plant at the time of the gas leak, seven years after the Indian subsidiary had been divested to a third company, McLeod Russel India Ltd. He said: "We didn't buy the Indian assets or liabilities because they had sold them to McLeod Russel."
Hamilton said the goal of being an Olympics sponsor and being involved with the games period is to open up doors to new markets, including those in Sochi, Russia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the 2014 and 2016 Olympics are set to take place. Dow Chemical has set a goal of $1 billion in incremental revenue from having become a top sponsor of the Olympics, Hamilton said, with the hopes of becoming more involved in design, engineering and building of future Olympic structures. The company estimates the cities who will be hosting future games will require $100 billion worth of infrastructure over the ten years.
In the years before Dow's 2010 announcement it would become a Worldwide Olympic Partner, the company had been associated with the Olympics since it made donations of Styrofoam insulation used in ice skating and bobsled runs at the 1980 Lake Placid Games. Most recently, Dow has been an official supplier of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Olympic Charter says "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play...Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement." Discussion is ongoing in the political arena that whether India should boycott the London Olympics. A boycott is an act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest. There had been instances of Olympic boycott by several countries in the 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. In India, there has been demand from various groups to boycott London Olympics on basis of gross violation of human rights by Union Carbide, the company which is responsible for Bhopal gas disaster and acquisited by Dow Chemicals.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan urged Indian government not to participate in London Olympics. While IOA Secretary General Randhir Singh said, India should not boycott the London Olympics on Dow Chemicals issue as doing that would be a "tragedy" to the athletes of the country who have been preparing for the Games.
Randhir sympathised with the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster for which Union Carbide, which was taken over by Down Chemicals in 2001, was responsible but felt that boycotting the Olympics was not the right way of dealing with the situation. "Top athletes have qualified for London Olympics. This time, India have also qualified in hockey. They should not be deprived of the chance to represent the country in the Olympics," he said.
"More than 60 per cent of the Indian people are youth and Olympics celebrate the power of youth in a big way. So it would be a disappointment for the youth of the country if India boycotts the Games," said Randhir who is also an International Olympic Committee member.
Sustainability Commissioner to the London 2012 Olympics, Meredith Alexander, quit in protest of the sponsorship deal with Dow Chemical Company for its connection to the Bhopal gas disaster.
Andrew Liveris, chief executive of Dow Chemical, says the ongoing protests over his company's sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics are "beyond belief". Liveris said that Dow Chemical wasn't involved in the Bhopal disaster but his public comments indicate that the company has had to rachet up its public relations campaign as the controversy continues to rumble on without any apparent resolution.
The IOC - which receives £60 million a year from Dow - as well as the London Organising Committee, which also receives sponsorship benefits from the company, have publicly backed Dow's stance.
(The author teaches Rural Management in MGCG University, Chitrakoot, MP)
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