India to demand 2012 Games drop Dow over Bhopal disaster

NEW DELHI Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:10am EST

The sun rises over the Olympic stadium in east London November 23, 2011.    REUTERS/Paul Hackett

The sun rises over the Olympic stadium in east London November 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Paul Hackett

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's Olympic body will demand the London Olympic Games axe a sponsorship deal with Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N) because of the U.S. corporation's ties to a major industrial disaster in 1984, a senior official said on Thursday.

The sponsorship deal has angered many Indians, including current and former Olympic athletes. Some have called for a boycott of next year's competition.

Activists say 25,000 people died in the years that followed the gas leak in the town of Bhopal and about 100,000 people who were exposed to the gas today suffer from ailments that range from cancer, blindness to birth defects.

"We are proposing to write to the IOC London Olympics that this sponsor should be out of it," the Indian Olympic Association's acting president Vijay Malhotra said.

"Since these games are for friendship it should not be one of the sponsors."

He said he would not speculate what action the body would take if its request was rejected. Last month, Malhotra said India was not considering a boycott.

India's Olympic body was meeting on Thursday to finalise its position and would send the letter in the next few days, Malhotra said.

The pesticide plant was owned by Union Carbide, which in 1989 paid $470 million in compensation for Bhopal victims.

Survivors of the disaster and the government say the payout was far too small, and want Dow, which bought Union Carbide in 1999, to pay at least $1.2 Billion more in damages.

"They purchased Union Carbide, and Union Carbide is responsible for the worst industrial disaster in the world," Malhotra said.

Dow denies any responsibility for the accident. It says Union Carbide had settled its liabilities with the Indian government.

British Labour party MP Barry Gardiner has backed India's campaign to have Dow dropped as a sponsor.

On Wednesday he called for an enquiry into the tender process that led to the company being granted the deal to sponsor a temporary wrap to decorate the Olympic stadium.

(Reporting By Frank Jack Daniel; editing by Matthias Williams/Peter Rutherford)