London Olympics: UK surprised over India’s silence on Dow

Zeenews Sports Bureau

London/Bhopal: The row over Dow Chemical`s sponsorship of London Olympics escalated with the commissioner of an ethics watchdog resigning over its links to the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster even as UK politicians expressed surprise over India’s silence on the issue.

An enraged Meredith Alexander said she is quitting as Sustainability Commissioner to the 2012 London Olympics to bring attention to the "toxic legacy" of Bhopal. India is strongly opposed to Dow`s involvement with the Games due to start in July but has yet not taken firm decisions to express the nation’s anguish over the worst industrial tragedy in the world.

In her statement in London, Alexander said, "I don`t want to be party to a defence of Dow Chemicals, the company responsible for one of the worst corporate human rights violations in my generation. It is appalling that 27 years on, the site has still not been cleaned up and thousands upon thousands of people are still suffering."

"I believe people should be free to enjoy London 2012 without this toxic legacy on their conscience," she added. Alexander is one of the 13 commissioners in the body monitoring the London Olympics and it is an unpaid position.

After Alexander`s resignation, senior Labour party figures such as Keith Vaz and Tessa Jowell (shadow Olympics minister) have also called for an audit of the process by which Dow Chemical was awarded the sponsorship.

Keith Vaz said: "Meredith Alexander`s resignation was brave and principled. It is completely unacceptable that a supposedly sustainable Olympic Games is taking sponsorship from a company with as appalling a human rights and environmental record as Dow`s".

He added: "I hope LOCOG and the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 will now see that it is untenable for Dow`s sponsorship to continue. The fact Ms Alexander felt it necessary to resign has brought the Commission`s credibility into question. It will remain so as long as Dow remains a sponsor of London 2012."

Jowell said: "I have called today for an audit of the steps taken that led the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 to recommend to LOCOG that Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship of the wrap was consistent with the high sustainability aims that we set for 2012".

She added: "We also need to understand what the role of other Commissioners was in the process which reached that conclusion. We need a solution not a row.”

"Dow Chemicals need to understand the seriousness with which people take the continuing situation in Bhopal following the tragic disaster in 1984. I will do everything I can to make sure this issue does not overshadow the Games. There is still time for a solution to be found."

Meanwhile, reacting to Alexander`s resignation, organisers of the London 2012 Olympics said there were no plans to drop Dow Chemical as the sponsor of the wrap around the main stadium.

London 2012 chief executive, Paul Deighton, insisted that after Alexander`s resignation, it would not reconsider the decision to award the contract to Dow, which also has a 100 million pounds deal with the International Olympic Committee.

Dow is now the parent company of Union Carbide, whose pesticide plant leaked gas into Bhopal in 1984, killing tens of thousands of people.