LONDON (Reuters) - London politicians called on Olympic officials to rethink their sponsorship contract with Dow Chemical on Wednesday, saying the company’s links to the 1984 Bhopal disaster damaged the reputation of this month’s Games.
Members of the London Assembly, the body which oversees the work of the capital’s mayor, said London Olympic organizers (LOCOG) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should give more weight to environmental, social and ethical records of companies when awarding such contracts.
“There is a genuine excitement and enthusiasm about the Games across London, but it is in danger of being tarnished by association with companies like Dow Chemical,” assembly member Darren Johnson said in a statement.
“LOCOG and the IOC must tighten up the regulations around Olympic sponsors to ensure they don’t make the same mistakes again.”
The assembly agreed a motion saying the IOC’s decision to select Dow as a worldwide partner had caused “damage to the reputation” of the London Games which start on July 27, and that the IOC should review its current partnership with Dow.
As many as 25,000 residents of Bhopal, India, died in the aftermath of a gas leak at a pesticide factory that was owned by a subsidiary of Union Carbide.
Dow, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, has repeatedly denied any responsibility for Bhopal and has refused demands, including from the Indian government, to increase a $470-million compensation package that Union Carbide paid to victims in 1989.
Dow is one of 11 global Olympic sponsors, and stepped in to fund the plastic wrap for the main stadium, at an estimated cost of seven million pounds, after organizers ditched it as part of government austerity measures.
“It is time for LOCOG and the IOC to take their ethical and sustainability code seriously and exclude Dow Chemical from future sponsorship deals,” said Navin Shah, who proposed the motion.
Campaigners, including Meredith Alexander, who resigned from a body overseeing the sustainability of the Olympics in protest at Dow’s involvement, welcomed the move.
“It has no place at what we all hope will be the most sustainable Olympics,” she said.
In March, British Prime Minister David Cameron defended Dow’s role in the Games, saying it was a reputable company that did not own Union Carbide at the time of the Bhopal tragedy.
A LOCOG spokesman said: ”Dow was appointed as the supplier of the Olympic stadium wrap in August 2011 following a thorough and competitive procurement process.
“We assessed all bids on the ability to deliver a sustainable solution and Dow met this criteria by some distance.”
Reporting By Venetia Rainey. Editing by Avril Ormsby and Alison Wildey