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Volunteer quits Olympic committee over Dow's role(2)

Thu, 01/26/2012 - 5:13am
RAPHAEL SATTER - Associated Press - Associated Press

A volunteer on the 2012 Olympics' sustainability commission said she was resigning over the Dow Chemical Co.'s sponsorship of the games.

Campaigner Meredith Alexander said Wednesday she was quitting the watchdog body in protest over Dow's links to the deadly 1984 gas leak at a Union Carbide plant in the central India city of Bhopal, which killed an estimated 15,000 people and injured half a million. Controversy has long been rumbling over Dow's sponsorship of the so-called Olympic "wrap," which is to hang from the rafters of the games' steel-latticed stadium.

Dow bought Union Carbide in 2000 and critics argue that the purchase makes the U.S.-based company responsible for groundwater contamination and other issues that linger in India. More than that, Dow's involvement in the Olympics has offended advocates for the thousands of dead and injured in India.

Bhopal victims' rights groups have also demanded the scrapping of the sponsorship deal, saying it would give undue publicity to a company they accused of refusing to clean up after itself.

Officials say that the deal has been properly vetted.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said this week that there was "absolutely no question there was an appalling human cost" at Bhopal but that blame could not be pinned on Dow.

He said Dow did not own Union Carbide at the time of the disaster nor at the time of a settlement with the Indian government in 1989, which has since been repeatedly upheld by India's supreme court.

He said that made him "confident that it was a very reasonable decision" for Dow to be involved with the stadium.

"I believe that we should support them as a company that wants to do the right thing by supporting a project that will be of huge benefit to the country," Hunt said.

Alexander served on the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, whose job is to ensure sustainability across the Olympic and Paralympic program.

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