The Sports Ministry of India has asked the Indian Olympic Association to immediately raise the question of Dow Chemical's sponsorship of the 2012 London Olympics with the International Olympics Committee.
Strong public sentiment exists in this matter and a number of ex-Olympians have raised the issue, read a statement from the ministry.
Dow Chemical Co., a U.S.-based multinational corporation, acquired in 2001 a pesticide plant, located in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, from Union Carbide, another U.S.-based corporation. The plant, located near the city of Bhopal, was the site of one of history's worst industrial accidents, when, in 1984, poisonous cyanide gas was leaked resulting in an extremely high death toll, estimates for which vary.
Union Carbide settled its liabilities with the Indian government in 1989 by paying $470 million to the victims of the tragedy. But many other victims and activists continue to hold Dow Chemical responsible for failing to provide adequate compensation. The Indian government is seeking an additional $1.1 billion for the victims.
News of the sponsorship has been met with anger across India, particularly in Madhya Pradesh. Activists have threatened to block trains in Bhopal, an important railway hub, unless the central government records its protest with the organizers of the Games. Effigies of Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London 2012 Olympics organizing committee, were also burnt.
The state's Chief Minister, Shivaraj Singh Chauhan, joined hands with protesters and wrote to Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken, demanding that India boycott the Olympics if Dow continues to be a sponsor.
They have not met their liabilities and hence, such a company should not be allowed to be associated with the most prestigious sporting event of the world, Chauhan said in his letter. The chief minister also said that instead of sponsoring the Games, the company could spend that money on Bhopal survivors.
Finally, in an letter addressed to the organizing committee, 21 Indian athletes have urged the authorities to cancel Dow's sponsorship of a fabric wrap around the Olympic stadium in London.