Amnesty condemns decision to go with Dow as Olympic sponsor

A leading human rights organisation on Thursday condemned the International Olympic Committee's decision not to drop Dow Chemical Co. as a sponsor of the London Games.

The UK-based Amnesty International expressed disappointment at the organisers' decision not to terminate Dow Chemical's sponsorship deal for the upcoming 2012 London Games.

Dow Chemical is the owner of Union Carbide Corporation - the company responsible for the 1984 gas disaster in Bhopal that killed over 25,000 and affected over five lakh.

"Unbelievably the IOC says Dow is committed to 'good corporate governance', shocking when you consider all the facts and that the company refuses liability for a corporate disaster the scale of Bhopal, creating a toxic legacy for London 2012," said Seema Joshi, Amnesty International's Head of Business and Human Rights.

"London Olympic Organisers have failed to make a fair assessment of the issues surrounding Dow's responsibility to the victims of Bhopal," said Joshi. "They have repeatedly refused our requests to a meeting."

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had earlier twice written to the IOC and London Games Organising Committee, calling for the withdrawal of Dow as a Games sponsor.

IOA acting president Vijay Kumar Malhotra said the IOA had received representations from several former Olympians and NGOs protesting against the London Games Organisers' link with Dow Chemical.

In response to the letter, IOC chief Jacques Rogge said Dow had "no connection with the Bhopal tragedy and had no ownership stake in Union Carbide until 16 years after the accident and 12 years after the USD 470 million compensation agreement was approved by the Supreme Court".

"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 citizenship. The company has supported the Olympic Movement for over 30 years, providing support and bringing industry-leading expertise and innovation to the Games," Rogge had written.

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

The Bhopal plant was owned and operated by Union Carbide India Limited with UCC holding just over 50% of the stock

"When Dow bought Union Carbide, it bought liability for the Bhopal disaster," says Seema Joshi.

"As the 100% owner of Union Carbide, Dow has the power to force its subsidiary to face justice, and has responsibility for the clean-up of the Bhopal site."

Last month, the head of the Ethics Committee, Meredith Alexander resigned from her post in opposition to Dow being allowed to remain a sponsor.

Meredith's decision to step down was welcomed by NGOs and rights activists across the country.