Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Bhopal victims urge UK government to drop Dow as 2012 sponsor

February 29, 2012 -- Updated 1217 GMT (2017 HKT)
The Bhopal disaster is the worst industrial tragedy in India's history. Here, protestors demonstrate in 2006.
The Bhopal disaster is the worst industrial tragedy in India's history. Here, protestors demonstrate in 2006.
  • Indian group protest to UK government over sponsorship deal for London 2012 Games
  • Group angry Dow Chemical Company signed 10-year Olympic contract in 2010
  • Protestors claim Dow is involved in avoiding liability in Bhopal tragedy of 1984
  • IOC says it sympathizes with demonstrators' position but defends Dow deal

(CNN) -- Victims and campaigners from the Bhopal disaster of 1984 have staged a "die-in" outside the UK's sports ministry to protest at the sponsorship role Dow Chemical Company will play in the London 2012 Olympics.

The demonstrators object to the International Olympic Committee's 10-year deal with Dow, who in 2001 became owners of the firm that caused one of the worst industrial disasters in India, when nearly 4,000 people were killed by a gas leak at the Union Carbide plant.

An estimated 45,000 others were said to be affected by the emission of poisonous gas at the site in Bhopal, which has caused cancer, disability and renal failure.

The demonstrators want the Indian government to boycott the 2012 Games if the IOC keeps Dow as a sponsor, and said they will continue their protests after the Olympic body insisted their partner was not responsible for the tragedy.

The campaigners are lobbying the UK government to rectify what it claims are "transparent errors of moral judgment and legal reasoning" in its failure to remove all support for Dow's sponsorship.

The Olympic Movement sympathizes with the grief of the victims' families and regrets the ongoing suffering people face in the region
International Olympic Committee

India's government has written to the IOC to ask it to drop ties with Dow, while the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has threatened to withdraw from the Games if no action is taken.

In a letter to the IOA, Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, said: "IOC recognizes that the Bhopal tragedy in 1984 was an horrific event for India and the world.

"The Olympic Movement sympathizes with the grief of the victims' families and regrets the ongoing suffering people face in the region.

"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 $470 million compensation agreement was approved by the Indian Supreme Court.

"We only enter into partnerships with organizations that we believe work in accordance with the values of the Olympic Movement."

But with the Indian Supreme Court reviewing the case for a third time, the protestors claimed Dow was engaged in an "unethical refusal to deal with its unresolved legal and moral liabilities in Bhopal."

They also claimed Dow are misrepresenting facts and "prolonging the suffering of thousands of people in Bhopal, including that of unborn generations."

Officials from the protest group met with representatives from the UK's high commission and handed over a petition complete with 21,000 signatures that asked for Dow to be dropped as an Olympic sponsor.

Dow will provide the decorative wrap for London's Olympic Stadium, while its products will be used in the running track, hockey pitches and in stadia, accommodation and the broadcast center.

A company spokesman said it has sympathy for the victims of the Bhopal tragedy, but that responsibility for finding a solution "rests in the hands of the Indian central and state governments."

"The Supreme Court of India directed the Central Government to address additional needs of those impacted -- should there be any -- in a review of the settlement agreement in 1991 and the State Government of Madhya Pradesh has ownership of the Bhopal plant site," Dow said in a statement released to CNN.

"The fact is that Dow never owned nor operated the Bhopal plant, nor has the company acquired any part of the Bhopal plant or issues related to it. Dow was never there. The settlement of the incident between the Government of India, Union Carbide and Union Carbide India Limited occurred in 1989, long before Dow acquired the shares of Union Carbide in 2001.

"Those trying to attach Dow to the incident are misinformed or misguided. The fact is that Dow has been an industry leader in developing performance improvements to ensure that such incidents never happen again."

Part of complete coverage on
August 13, 2012 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
The moment that Team GB's Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters was a wonderful collision of electricity.
August 13, 2012 -- Updated 1534 GMT (2334 HKT)
His blistering pace and larger-than-life antics made him the king of the track in London, and bolstered his claims to be a "living legend."
August 14, 2012 -- Updated 0944 GMT (1744 HKT)
Disappointment for Nigeria's Muizat Ajoke Odumosu, who came last in the 400m hurdles final, London 2012 Olympics.
The Olympics are generally won and lost long before the opening ceremony cauldron is touched by fire.
August 12, 2012 -- Updated 0738 GMT (1538 HKT)
Fans of the home side, Team GB, wave Union Jack flags during the Olympic Games
CNN's Richard Quest believes the London Games will be regarded as having brought the Olympics concept home.
August 11, 2012 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
Strategist Alastair Campbell says he never imagined London 2012 would be quite the triumph it turned out to be.
August 14, 2012 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
Award-winning director Danny Boyle celebrates the best of British music in London 2012's Olympic Closing Ceremony.
January 31, 2013 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
From Usain Bolt's record-setting achievements to an unexpected Ugandan gold, London 2012 has provided a wide array of highlights.
August 13, 2012 -- Updated 0305 GMT (1105 HKT)
CNN's Amanda Davies recaps the London 2012 Olympics from the opening ceremony on July 27 to the finale on day 16.
August 12, 2012 -- Updated 1702 GMT (0102 HKT)
Mo Farah and Usain Bolt celebrate their success at the London 2012 Olympic Games by copying each other's
It's been just over two weeks since the Queen parachuted into London's Olympic Stadium, her apricot dress flapping in the breeze.
August 15, 2012 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
When the world's top marathon runners bid to win Olympic gold, they would do well to draw inspiration from one of the greatest athletes in the history of track and field.
August 11, 2012 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
Team GB supporters with their faces painted in Union Jack designs at the Olympic Stadium in London.
Alastair Campbell always thought London 2012 would be a success, but never imagined it would be quite the triumph it has turned out to be.
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Adrien Niyonshuti is unlikely to win an Olympic medal, and he will do well to even finish his event, but his story is surely one of the most inspirational.
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 1605 GMT (0005 HKT)
The colors of the Olympic Rings at the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, August 2012.
Olympic fever has cheered up London and made it a more welcoming place, but will optimism be one of the legacies of the Games?
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Wojdan Shaherkani's Olympic debut was short, but sweet -- the Saudi judoka said competing at the Games was
London 2012 is the first Olympics to feature women in every national team, with Jacques Rogge hailing a "major boost for gender equality."
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
An impoverished South Korean gymnast has not only struck Olympic gold, but also reaped a $444,000 donation in a veritable rags to riches tale.
August 9, 2012 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
Britain's hero Jessica Ennis is set to cash in after winning heptathlon gold, but the poster girl of the 2012 Olympics says fame is not her motivation.
August 8, 2012 -- Updated 0746 GMT (1546 HKT)
China is rallying around fallen hurdler Liu Xiang after he failed to make it past the first-round heat for a second consecutive Olympics.
August 3, 2012 -- Updated 1930 GMT (0330 HKT)
The first woman to win Olympic gold almost died in a plane crash, but remarkably returned to run again for the U.S. in 1936.
August 7, 2012 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
Don Paige could not bear to watch the race he knew he could win. The 1980 Moscow Olympics were the death of a dream for many athletes.
August 4, 2012 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
Ricardo Blas Jr
While Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt grab the headlines, little-known athletes from around the world keep alive the original spirit of the Olympics.
Athletes spend years eating the right foods ... and then must resist the free fast food in the Olympic village. How do they do it?