The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has told Indian Olympics officials that the Dow Chemical company was not responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in any way.
Dow is a major sponsor for the 2012 Games and is contributing £7 million to the construction of the Olympic Stadium in east London.
The company merged in 1999 with the Union Carbide Corporation, whose subsidiary Union Carbide India ran the Bhopal pesticide plant and denies any liability for the chemical gas leak which killed around 25,000 people at Bhopal in 1984.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and NGOs working with Bhopal survivors have repeatedly demanded that Dow Chemical should not be Olympic sponsors.
Union Carbide is a defendant in four legal actions related to Bhopal, including a criminal prosecution in which the company is accused of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder." Despite having been charged in 1987, Union Carbide never appeared before the Courts. The Bhopal factory site continues to be heavily contaminated today.
In a letter to the IOA, president of the IOC Jacques Rogge said, "The IOC recognises that the Bhopal tragedy was a horrific event for India and the world. The Olympic Movement sympathises with the grief of the victims' families and regrets the ongoing suffering people face in the region."
He continued, "Dow had no connection with the Bhopal tragedy. Dow did not have any ownership stake in Union Carbide until 16 years after the accident and 12 years after the $470m compensation agreement was approved by the Indian Supreme Court."
Amnesty International said yesterday (16 February) that it was "extremely disappointed that Olympic organisers continue to side with the Dow Chemical Company" while refusing to listen what it describes as "legitimate concerns" over the company’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Games.
Seema Joshi, Amnesty's Head of Business and Human Rights, said: “London Olympic organisers have repeatedly failed to respond to our requests for a meeting, which would help them to make a fair assessment of the issues surrounding Dow’s responsibility to the victims of Bhopal. Instead, they take a one-sided approach and reply on Dow’s position.”
She concluded, “When Dow bought Union Carbide, it bought liability for the Bhopal disaster. As the 100 per cent owner of Union Carbide, Dow has the power to force its subsidiary to face justice, and has responsibility for the clean-up of the Bhopal site.”