Olympic Committee: Dow Not Responsible for Bhopal Tragedy

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Common Dreams

Olympic Committee: Dow Not Responsible for Bhopal Tragedy

IOC to keep Dow Chemical as Olympics sponsor despite protests

by
Common Dreams staff

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that it would keep Dow Chemical as a sponsor despite protests and objections from Indian officials. The IOC said Dow was not responsible for the 1984 Bhopal tragedy and that the company has "values of the Olympic movement."

Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee president, wrote a letter explaining the IOC's reason for keeping Dow Chemical as an Olympic sponsor:

6_24_10 Bhopal Verdict Protest in Harvard Square-07

"Dow had no connection with the Bhopal tragedy. Dow did not have any ownership stake in Union Carbide until 16 years after the accident and 12 years after the $470m [£300m] compensation agreement was approved by the Indian supreme court.

"The Olympic movement sympathises with the grief of the victims' families and regrets the ongoing suffering people face in the region.

"We only enter into partnerships with organisations that we believe work in accordance with the values of the Olympic movement. Dow is a global leader in its field of business and is committed to good corporate governance. The company has supported the Olympic movement for over 30 years …

"We do hope that the Indian Olympic Association is recognising this, while we appreciate the difficult situation you are facing in the country," Rogge added.

The BBC adds:

[Dow Chemical] merged with the Union Carbide Corporation - whose subsidiary Union Carbide India ran the Bhopal pesticide plant - in 1999 and denies any liability for the chemical gas leak.

As well as its sponsorship deal, the US-based company is funding a £7m ($11m) fabric wrap for the Olympic stadium in east London, which will be 900m (0.56 miles) long and 20m (67ft) high.

Indian NGOs working with the survivors of the gas leak and the IOA have repeatedly demanded that Dow Chemical should be dropped as one of the sponsors for the Olympics.

A commissioner for a body monitoring the Olympics recently resigned over its links with Dow.
 

Amnesty International gives this background on the Bhopal disaster:

On 2 December 1984, thousands of pounds of deadly chemicals leaked from UCC's [Union Carbide Corporation's] pesticide plant in Bhopal, central India. Around half a million people were exposed. Between 7,000 and 10,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and a further 15,000 over the next 20 years.

Only hours after the tragedy, nine individuals and three corporations were accused. These included 8 Indian individuals working for UCIL or the Bhopal plant, and Warren Anderson, a US national and Chairman of UCC at the time. The companies accused were Indian-based UCIL, its US-based parent company UCC, and UCE, a wholly owned subsidiary of UCC based in Hong Kong but incorporated in the USA. Arrests were made swiftly afterwards, although charges were only pressed in 1987.

In 2005, the Bhopal Court issued a summons for Dow to attend the proceedings and give account as to why it should not produce its fully owned subsidiary and proclaimed absconder, UCC, in court. Dow's subsidiary in India, Dow Chemical India Private Ltd, successfully applied for the summons to be stayed.

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