ArcelorMittal's Olympics showpiece in a row

ArcelorMittal's Olympics showpiece in a row London: The ArcelorMittal Orbit tower, the tallest structure in Britain and located next to the Olympics stadium here has been claimed by survivors of the Bosnian concentration camp at Omarska, with the steel giant rejecting their bid.

The company, which is one of the sponsors of the forthcoming London Olympics, has contributed 20 million pounds towards the structure designed by the prize winning artist Anish Kapoor.

Survivors of Bosnian war crimes said yesterday that since ArcelorMittal did not deliver on its 2005 commitment to finance and build a memorial at Omarska, they had decided to claim the Orbit as the 'Omarska Memorial in Exile'.

In 2004, ArcelorMittal had assumed 51 percent ownership of the Ljubija mining complex that included Omarska -now a mine operated by ArecelorMittal.

The survivors allege that the Orbit is "tragically intertwined with the history of war crimes in Bosnia, as the bones of victims are mixed in with the iron ore".

In a statement to PTI, ArcelorMittal today denied that any material from the mine had been used in the Orbit, and said that "unfortunately it is not possible for ArcelorMittal on its own" to establish a memorial, but the company was ready to build one if an agreement was reached on a suitable memorial by local community groups and stakeholders.

"Under the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina, permission for memorials can only be given by the local authorities. ArcelorMittal cannot provide such permission. While we recognise the concerns of those campaigning for memorials for the victims of war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the targeting of the ArcelorMittal Orbit is not the answer to this very sensitive situation," the statement said ahead of the London olympics beginning on July 27.

The company said it recognised that since it operated the Omarska mine, various stakeholders turned to it for help to resolve challenges, "but such sensitive issues are not for ArcelorMittal to address on its own."

"We do accept that our 51 percent ownership of this mine does bring certain responsibilities and with that in mind we are continuing to actively engage in dialogue with all concerned parties and to facilitate safe access for those wanting to visit the site", the statement added.

Three survivors of war crimes - Satko Mujagic, Rezak Hukanovic and Kemal Pervanic - spoke at the press conference, claiming the Orbit as their 'Omarska Memorial in Exile'.

"As the largest steel producer in the world, ArcelorMittal can surely use their considerable influence to overturn the local politics of denial and actively participate in healing the fractured communities out of which their very fortunes are generated" said Susan Schuppli of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmith College.

"Yet they insist on not taking sides. Not taking sides in an area where persecution and injustice continue is not neutrality but taking a political position by default," she added.

ArcelorMittal said it was proud to be associated with the London 2012 Olympics, and also proud of its contribution to economic and community development across Bosnia?and Herzegovina.

"We are the largest foreign investor in the country and employ over 3,850 people at our steel plant in Zenica and our mine in Prijedor. To date we have invested over 200 million USD in Bosnia?and Herzegovina and ArcelorMittal is committed to being part of the country's future", the company said.

Located in Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, the ArcelorMittal Orbit has two observation floors, a 455-step spiral staircase, lift and restaurant.

Visitors go up in the lift and walk down the staircase and take in the views and artistic tricks designed by Kapoor.

It is made from 60 percent scrap metal.

PTI