As many as 25,000 people died in India back in 1984 due to the Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, and residents are still understandably upset about the experience that left many without family members, spouses, or friends.
In 1999, Carbide was bought by Dow Chemical, a purchase that Dow execs are likely muttering about to one another these days. The lasting unhappiness with Union is now being manifested in what seems to be a growing protest against Dow having anything to do with this summer’s Olympic Games in London.
Dow has forked over big bucks to be a top-tier IOC sponsor and was all set to “wrap” the main London 2012 Olympic stadium in a massive banner as part of its deal. However, the company responded to activists last month by scrapping to scraps its plans for the stadium wrap. That, apparently, has not been enough.
The Indian Olympic Association’s acting president, VK Malhotra, recently sent a letter to International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge asking that Dow be removed as a sponsor, according to the Independent.
"I ask you to urgently take this matter up with the organisers of the London Games and also convey our concerns to them and ensure the matter is sorted out amicably,” he wrote, according to the paper. "A false campaign has been launched by the Dow Chemical's saying that matter has been settled. It is not correct. The case is still pending in the court and no final compensation has been made."
Dow, understandably, is vigorously defending itself. "We have been surprised about how much attention has been given to it and how a few politicians here in the UK have enthusiastically jumped on this topic,” George Hamilton, Dow's VP of Olympic operations, commented to the Associated Press.
“Here we are 27 years later, and folks want to bring Dow into this who was never there, who didn't own it, didn't operate it, didn't buy any of the liabilities of Union Carbide who had paid their issues and left the country — trying to paint Dow with being associated with Bhopal. It's misinformed, misguided, and misdirected."
Dow's tough stance comes as McDonald's extended its global Olympic sponsorship for eight more years today, renewing its commitment to remain a top-tier sponsor through the 2020 Summer Games. McDonald's and the International Olympic Committee didn't reveal the financial value of the extended sponsorship, which the AP estimates is "worth hundreds of millions of dollars."
Having first signed on as a top-level IOC sponsor with the 1976 Summer Games, McDonald's new deal runs through this summer's games in London, the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, and the 2020 Summer Olympics in a city that is yet to be determined.
"We are very proud of our long-standing partnership," stated Don Thompson, McDonald's president and chief operating officer. "It's great to see how we evolved from a national sponsor to a worldwide partner over these years. Every dimension of our partnership shares the same values: excellence, team work, giving your best."
McDonalds became the seventh top-tier sponsor to renew its partnership with the IOC through 2020 following Coca-Cola, General Electric, Omega, Procter & Gamble, Visa — and, of course, the embattled Dow Chemical.
P&G, meanwhile, today launched a global extension of its "Thank You Mom" campaign in support of the more than 150 Olympic athletes it's endorsing. As part of the campaign, a portion of sales from P&G's top brands, such as Pampers, Ariel and Gillette, will help raise a minimum of U.S. $5 million to benefit youth sport:
"We believe that behind every athlete is an even more amazing mom," said Marc Pritchard, P&G Global Marketing and Brand Building Officer. "P&G is in the business of helping moms. Through our 'Thank You Mom' program we will support not just the moms of Olympic athletes — but every mom who does whatever it takes to make her child's life the best it can be."
"I am delighted to see the strength of P&G's commitment to the Olympic Movement," said President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge. "Through its support of mothers of Olympians, P&G is helping athletes. With its support of youth sports, the company is supporting families and is helping to develop athletes every day. It aligns perfectly with the Olympic values."