London politicians called on Olympic officials to rethink their sponsorship contract with Dow Chemical on Wednesday, saying the company's links to the 1984 Bhopal disaster damaged the reputation of July's Games.
Members of the London Assembly, the body which oversees the work of the capital's mayor, said London Olympic organisers (LOCOG) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should give more weight to environmental, social and ethical records of companies when awarding such contracts.
"There is a genuine excitement and enthusiasm about the Games across London, but it is in danger of being tarnished by association with companies like Dow Chemical," assembly member Darren Johnson said in a statement.
"LOCOG and the IOC must tighten up the regulations around Olympic sponsors to ensure they don't make the same mistakes again."
The assembly agreed a motion saying the IOC's decision to select Dow as a worldwide partner had caused "damage to the reputation" of the London Games which start on July 27, and that the IOC should review its current partnership with Dow.
As many as 25,000 residents of Bhopal, India, died in the aftermath of a gas leak at a pesticide factory that was owned by a subsidiary of Union Carbide.
Dow, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, has repeatedly denied any responsibility for Bhopal and has refused demands, including from the Indian government, to increase a $470-million compensation package that Union Carbide paid to victims in 1989.
Dow is one of 11 global Olympic sponsors, and stepped in to fund the plastic wrap for the main stadium, at an estimated cost of seven million pounds, after organisers ditched it as part of government austerity measures.
"It is time for LOCOG and the IOC to take their ethical and sustainability code seriously and exclude Dow Chemical from future sponsorship deals," said Navin Shah, who proposed the motion.
Campaigners, including Meredith Alexander, who resigned from a body overseeing the sustainability of the Olympics in protest at Dow's involvement, welcomed the move.
"It has no place at what we all hope will be the most sustainable Olympics," she said.
In March, British Prime Minister David Cameron defended Dow's role in the Games, saying it was a reputable company that did not own Union Carbide at the time of the Bhopal tragedy.
A LOCOG spokesman said: "Dow was appointed as the supplier of the Olympic stadium wrap in August 2011 following a thorough and competitive procurement process.
"We assessed all bids on the ability to deliver a sustainable solution and Dow met this criteria by some distance."
Bhopal Gas Tragedy - fact file
* The Bhopal Gas Tragedy was an industrial catastrophe that occurred in 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. At the time, UCIL was the Indian subsidiary of the US company Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), itself now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company.
* As the gases engulfed Bhopal, people woke up with a burning sensation in their lungs.
* More than 25,000 residents of Bhopal died and about 500,000 people have been affected by the gas leak. Official estimates say that 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate that had leaked from UCC's factory killed at least 15,000 people within days in December 1984. Estimates vary on the death toll.
* Dow Chemicals, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, has repeatedly denied any responsibility for the tragedy. Dow refused demands, including from the Indian government, to increase a $470-million compensation package that Union Carbide paid to victims in 1989.
* Last year, UCC mooted the idea of a "negotiated settlement" within weeks of the gas leak and it also decided on "the quantum of compensation to be paid to victims as part of the settlement. In exchange, it sought exemption from any liability."
* In a setback to 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy victims, a US court held that neither Union Carbide nor its former chairman Warren Anderson were liable for environmental remediation or pollution-related claims at the firm's former chemical plant in Bhopal.
* Even after 27 years, gas victims are suffering serious health problems. On an average, 6,000 gas-affected patients visit hospitals in Bhopal every day, that is, about 2 million visits per year, according to reports.
Indian activists fighting for the victims of the Bhopal gas leak disaster are being monitored by an American strategic affairs company contracted to Dow Chemical and other large corporations, the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
Stalking Bhopal: the Stratfor mails on gas tragedy
Whistleblower website WikiLeaks published more than five million emails from a US-based global security analysis company Stratfor which reportedly monitored activities of Bhopal gas tragedy activists in India at the behest of Dow Chemicals and which counts Fortune 500 companies amongits subscribers.
Tweets on the issue:
Cartoon Olympics. The Bhopal Gas Disaster marathon fb.me/O0ObqHbu— BhopalMedicalAppeal (@BhopalMedAppeal) July 12, 2012
And to add insult, they've just agreed a £7m sponsorship deal with Bhopal pesticide, those people behind the deadly gas leak in 1984— Ben Browett (@BenBrowett) July 12, 2012
Should we boycott the #London#Olympics sponsored by #UnionCarbide in support of the Bhopal Gas Victims?
— Sudhir Puthran (@SudhirPuthran) July 12, 2012
(With agency inputs)