Saturday, February 4, 2012

Indian Paralympian calls on other disabled athletes there to boycott 2012 Paralympics until Dow Chemical is dropped as sponsor

From The Guardian in the UK:

Protesters against Dow Chemical's sponsorship of the wrap that will surround the Olympic Stadium (pictured) have opened a new front in their campaign, after Indian Paralympians issued fresh calls for a boycott of the London Games.

Girraj Singh, a silver medallist at the Asian Games and an Indian Paralympic triallist, said: "All Indian para‑atheletes should boycott the London 2012 Paralympics until Dow Chemical is dropped as a sponsor. The Indian Olympics Association (IOA) and Sports Ministry of India should show stronger protests against this sponsorship."

Other Indian Paralympic athletes including Trivendan Singh, Sonu Gupta, Bharat Kumar and Pradeep Raj also called on India to boycott the Games if the Dow link remained.

Campaigners believe that Dow has continuing liabilities relating to the 1984 Bhopal disaster that killed up to 20,000 people and seriously injured tens of thousands more. Dow argues that all liabilities stemming from its 2001 acquisition of Union Carbide, the company that owned the plant at the time of the disaster, have been settled in full.

The IOA has written to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games [Locog] to protest against Dow's sponsorship of the £7m wrap that will surround the stadium at Games-time, but it has dismissed talk of a boycott.

The issue of Dow's sponsorship was again placed in the spotlight last week when Meredith Alexander, one of 12 commissioners at the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, resigned in protest.

Barry Gardiner, the MP who is chair of the Labour Friends of India group which led a coalition of politicians protesting against the sponsorship, said: "Last week a sustainability commissioner resigned over Dow's Olympic sponsorship. Today Indian Paralympians have called for a boycott. These Paralympian athletes have worked their whole lives to take part in the Olympics. The fact that they are now calling for a boycott shows the strength of outrage should not be underestimated. These protests will only grow louder until Locog acts."

Tessa Jowell, the London 2012 board member and shadow Olympics minister, and the London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone have also called on Locog to drop Dow as a sponsor.

But London 2012's chairman, Lord Coe, has continued to defend the decision.

This week he said: "I of all people do understand the nature of the disaster in Bhopal. Half of my family live in India. I'm not hermetically sealed to this. But at the risk of sounding a bit like a cracked record, they were not the owners of the site at the time of the disaster, they were not the operators of the site at the time of the disaster, they were not the owners and operators of the site at the time of the first and full settlement that was then upheld on two separate occasions by the Indian supreme court.

"There are issues for the Indian government and the state of Madhya Pradesh to be dealing with, but this is not something Dow are responsible for. Dow have been an IOC sponsor since 2010."

Asked whether the controversy would overshadow preparations for the Games, Coe added: "Delivering an Olympic Games means you are permanently monitoring thousands of things. This is one of the things alongside lots of other things you are permanently across. But I think it's very important not to confuse two issues. Nobody for one moment is remotely unaware of the size and scale of that human disaster in 1984. But they were not operators or owners at the time, nor at the time of the final settlement."