With the Dow Chemicals sponsorship of next year's London Olympics causing outrage among Bhopal gas tragedy victims, the sports ministry on Monday asked the Indian Olympic Association to raise the issue with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In a letter addressed to IOA acting president, VK Malhotra, the ministry expressed concern about the status of the company as the official worldwide Olympic partner. Dow Chemicals, which last year signed an agreement with the IOC, is the company that took over Union Carbide, responsible for the Bhopal gas tragedy that killed over 15,000 people and disabled lakhs.
“The matter of Dow's liability, in respect of the Bhopal tragedy victims is sub-judice and that the government of India has itself filed a suit against the company. Strong public sentiment exists in this matter and a number of eminent ex-Olympians have also raised concerns,” the letter stated.
“We would advise the IOA to raise this matter immediately with the IOC,” it added.
Hockey Olympian and former Member of Parliament from Bhopal, Aslam Sher Khan, also sought an intervention of Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to ensure that Dow Chemicals is not allowed to associate with the London Games.
“It would be highly insensitive of the government to be mute spectator when MPs from hosts England are showing greater concern regarding justice for the people of Bhopal,” Aslam said.
In the past, Dow's involvement in the Olympic Movement was limited to sponsoring the US cycling team. In 2008, it also sponsored the Chinese badminton team for the Beijing Games and sponsored US teams for the Winter Olympics.
Dow will foot the bill of a temporary decorative wrap over London's Olympic Stadium and the move has created "dismay among the victims and others who see the Olympic Games as a celebration of best of human spirit.
Bowing to pressure, IOA acting president, VK Malhotra, said in a statement that the apex body will discuss the issue in the general body shortly.
“We will apprise the London Olympic Games organisers of the growing concern among the people protesting the sponsorship deal,” he said.