It’s been 27 years since gas leaked out of a Union Carbide pesticide plant in India and killed about 15,000 people. It also injured an additional 500,000 and is still causing health problems in the area today, according to the Indian government.
Union Carbide is owned by Dow Chemical, which happens to be one of the sponsors of next summer’s London Olympics, a fact that is not bringing smiles to many people in India. And Dow isn’t just any sponsor. It is the one that the London Organizing Committee has selected to sponsor a “wrap that will envelope the main Olympic Stadium,” according to the London Telegraph.
“Victims of the accident, as well as former Indian Olympians and officials, have been pressuring Olympic organizers to drop Dow as a sponsor,” the Associated Press reports. “Less than two weeks ago, protesters in Bhopal burned an effigy of the head of the Olympic organizing committee, Sebastian Coe,” who won four Olympic medals for running in the 1980 and 1984 Games. Also burned in effigy was Indian Olympic Association president Vijay Kumar Malhotra, the Telegraph reports.
One person who is also not excited about Dow’s involvement is a member of the organizing committee, Sir Robin Wales. "I believe the decision to accept sponsorship from Dow Chemical and in particular the decision to have that company so prominently connected to the iconic Olympic Stadium is worthy of a further review,” Wales said, the Telegraph reports. “I am disappointed by the decision not to look again at the deal."
Coe, however, is all for Dow’s involvement.
"Dow were never the operators or the owners of that chemical plant in 1984, nor were they the operators or the owners of the plant in 1989 when the final settlement was agreed," Coe told reporters in Beijing on Sunday, the AP reports. "Dow only became the major shareholders in that company in 2001, some 17 years after the tragedy.”
As compensation to those killed or injured because of the leak, Union Carbide has paid out $470 million but “the Indian government is seeking an additional $1.7 billion for the victims,” the AP notes.