New Delhi: Indian athletes and rights organizations on Monday urged 2012 Olympic organizers to scrap a sponsorship deal with the Dow Chemical Company over concerns about the firm's links to the world's worst industrial disaster, which killed thousands of people in India nearly three decades ago.
An estimated 15,000 people died and tens of thousands were maimed when poisonous gas leaked from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal in central India in 1984. Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide in 2001 but denies responsibility for Carbide's Bhopal liabilities.
Dow has maintained that it never owned or operated the Bhopal plant and that legal claims regarding the gas leak were resolved when Union Carbide paid $470 million as compensation for those killed or injured. The Indian government is seeking an additional $1.7 billion for the victims.
In a letter to the organizing committee for the 2012 London games, at least 21 Indian Olympic athletes urged it to scrap Dow's sponsorship of a curtain-style wrap to encircle a London stadium where some Olympic events will be held.
Dow's office in India referred an email request for comment to the company's U.S. headquarters.
London Olympic organizers have said they will not change their position on Dow's sponsorship.
The Indian Olympians said in their letter that considering the ongoing plight of the gas leak victims and the environment in Bhopal, Dow's sponsorship is "offensive to the spirit of the Olympic Games."
Five Bhopal victims' rights groups also demanded the scrapping of the sponsorship deal, saying it would give undue publicity to a company that was refusing to clean up the toxic contamination of soil and groundwater in Bhopal.
"Because of Dow Chemical's refusal to clean up Bhopal's poisons, hundreds of children are being born disabled," said Safreen Khan of the Children against Dow-Carbide.
"It is indeed shocking that the organizers of the London Olympics have not cared to find out about their sponsor's misdeeds," she said.