Olympics – A PR opportunity for the shamefaced

The London Olympics has already suffered severe setbacks from activists who are threatening to disrupt the smooth functionaing of the mega event. Lord Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the London Olympics Organising Committee has repeatedly turned down suggestions that he should get rid of some of the corporate sponsors. London which will be the first city to host the Olympic thrice is facing issues over sponsorship deals, transportation within the city, land grabbing and ceremonies expenditure.

The Olympics is an event of freedom, spirit, youth and energy; so why all these protests against an event of such big stature. The issue started when the organisers headed by Seb Coe agreed to massive sponsorship deals with corporates who have been responsible for heinous crimes in its history. BP, the most popular corporate culprit in the United States after its massive oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico has threatened more then 400 species and cost thousands of jobs. BP constantly delayed the cleaning of the oil spill and had to pay massive fines and compensations. American financial service giants VISA are engulfed in a controversy of their own. Any Olympic electronic financial transaction has to take place through a VISA debit or credit card. Many have raised their concern over the monopoly created by the organisers and have called for the boycott of the services offered by Visa.

The controversies that probably have managed to create a big dent on the mega event are the sponsorship deals with Dow Chemicals and ATOS. I have mentioned in my previous blog about the inhuman behavior of Union Carbide officials which is now owned by Dow Chemicals towards the people of Bhopal after a gas leak from a tank resulting in 3,000 lives in just one night. ATOS which is the private biggest health care service after the publicly owned NHS is under the limelight for its atrocious treatment of the disabled in the United Kingdom. Not many doubts were raised when athletes and activists have called for the Olympics to distance itself from ATOS or else they will try their best to boycott the Paralympic games. A similar threat has been given by some leading politicians and athletes from India to boycott the main event. Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was the deal with GE(General Electric). GE is one of the leading producers of nuclear energy in the world and not just in America, as it has helped set up nuclear capabilities in many other countries.

It is a farce that corporates who have performed with dubious moral ethics have been allowed to sponsor an event that symbolises unity. Spread the word against corporate greed.

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Justice for Bhopal – Stop Dow Chemicals sponsorship for London Olympics

Dow Chemicals is sponsoring millions of dollars to the London Olympics at the cost of the lives of 25,000 people who died inhaling the poisonous gas on the 3rd of December 1984 in Bhopal, India. Union Carbide, the company responsible for the mishandling of the large tanks containing the poisonous pesticide methyl isocyanate, is currently owned by Dow Chemicals. The organizations fighting for justice complained that they have received only 15% of the actual compensation they deserve. Union Carbide paid a part compensation of $470 mn. in 1989 after bowing down to the enormous pressure from activists and partly the Indian Government.

The compensations received then were based on the incorrect numbers presented by the Indian government, which has been constantly pestered by the organizations demanding justice. The official website for Justice in Bhopal mentions that the compensation received considered 5295 deaths but in reality 22,917 deaths have been reported due to the direct effects of the deadly gas. Also only 4902 were listed earlier as permanently disabled which is in complete contrast to the actual number which stands at more than 500,000. No compensation was provided to victims with temporary disability or minor injuries. 

The politicians who have been constantly reminded by the activists to bring the American company to trial have eventually won the attention of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, SS Chauhan joining the protests and asking for a boycott of the Games by India. Bhopal is the provincial capital of Madhya Pradesh. The Indian Government later asked the Indian Olympic Association to raise the issue with the International Olympic Committee. Although the Sports Minister has confirmed that no such action will be taken by the Indian Olympic Association.

Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the London Olympics has insisted that the organisers will go ahead with the sponsorship deal. This statement created a massive hatred for Seb Coe in Bhopal and his effigies were burnt.

This is not the first time Dow Chemicals have been accused of playing dirty games. In its ugly past they produced napalm for the United States government during the Vietnam War and have also been responsible for leaking of poisonous plutonium in America for which they were sued. They have multiple sites in USA which are harmful and are labelled as dangerous owing to Dow Chemicals dirty activities. The 10 year deal with the Olympic Committee means Dow Chemicals will supply its chemical to the organizers for construction raising millions of dollars.

Five leading groups who have been responsible for keeping the fight alive have held numerous rallies across the city and the state capital Delhi. The most recent rally was the ‘Rail Roko Andholan’ (Stop the Trains Movement) which was highly successful when the protesters stopped all trains passing through Bhopal which lies in the heart of the 1.3bn population country.

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