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Lawmakers Urge Organizers to Ditch Dow's Olympic Deal

Thu, 11/03/2011 - 4:13am
DAVID STRINGER,Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — British opposition lawmakers are demanding that London 2012 Olympics organizers scrap a deal for Dow Chemical Co. to fund an artistic centerpiece of the games over concerns about the company's links to the deadly 1984 toxic gas leak in Bhopal, India.

Labour Party lawmaker Barry Gardiner confirmed Thursday that his party's Friends of India group is pressing the London organizing committee, LOCOG, to reverse the deal as a result of concern over the company's response to the victims of the Bhopal leak, which killed an estimated 15,000 people.

The U.S.-based chemical giant will pay for a curtain-style wrap to encircle the Olympic stadium in east London under a deal announced in August.

Organizers had scrapped original plans for a more complex — and costly — stadium wrap which had been estimated to cost 7 million pounds ($11.4 million), but struck an agreement with Dow to pay for a scaled down wrap, made from 336 individual polyester panels — each approximately 25 meters (89 feet) high and 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) wide.

An artist's rendering of the planned piece shows a series of disconnected strips hanging from the edge of the stadium skeleton, unlike the sweeping single piece of cloth shown in earlier versions of the originally planned wrap.

Gardiner and fellow Labour lawmakers Keith Vaz and Tessa Jowell, a former minister responsible for the Olympics, met with London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe on Wednesday to raise their concerns over Dow's role in the games.

Critics accuse Dow of refusing to accept proper responsibility for the victims of the Bhopal leak, which, aside from killing thousands, left thousands more with devastating deformities and other health problems.

The leak — regarded as the world's worst industrial accident — happened at a pesticide plant owned and operated by an Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide.

Union Carbide was bought by Dow Chemical Co. in 2001. Dow says a legal case over the accident was resolved in 1989 when Union Carbide settled with the Indian government for $470 million, and that all responsibility for the factory now rests with the government of the state of Madhya Pradesh, which now owns the site.

"In no sense does Dow meet the environmental, social and ethical standards demanded" by Olympic organizers, Gardiner said in a statement. "I urge LOCOG to think again in order to protect the reputation of the Olympic legacy for Britain."

He said lawmakers opposed to the deal "will bring every pressure to bear on LOCOG, with a cross party campaign to support the victims of Bhopal and stop another injustice being visited upon them."

Vaz he hoped legislators could discuss the case with Dow, but that the "best course of action is for Dow to withdraw their sponsorship until the issues in Bhopal have been resolved."

"This is not the right kind of sponsorship for the world's greenest Olympics," Vaz said in an emailed statement.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons on Thursday that he was aware of concerns, but that Dow had been a "top sponsor" of the International Olympic Committee for many years.

Dow did not immediately offer a response to a request for comment on the lawmakers' attempts to reverse the deal.

Under the deal, Dow is not be allowed to put its logo on the wrap — as venue advertising is prohibited at the Olympics. However, Dow will be allowed to use its logo on construction billboards and during test events.

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