DowlympicsDow and Olympics: Ball is in PM's court
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has asked the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to ask the Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry to raise the controversial matter of Dow Chemical sponsorship for the London Olympics 2012 with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This should be done through the National Olympic Committee in view of the strong public opinion within India.
The sponsorship issued has led to outrage among the Bhopal tragedy victims and activists who protested against Dow Chemical's move. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan even wrote to Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Ajay Maken calling for a boycott of the London Olympics.
The Union government had filed a petition seeking a compensation of Rs.100 crore from Dow for environmental remediation costs.
Interestingly, the CEO of Dow Chemical is a member of the India-U.S. CEO Forum, but has stayed away from the meetings of this Forum so far due to the sensitivities involved.
Officials said that in the past Dow's involvement in the Olympics had been limited to sponsoring the U.S. cycling team. It sponsored the Chinese badminton team for the Summer Olympics in 2008 and donated insulating material/sponsored U.S. teams for the Winter Olympics.
London 2012 will be the first general agreement of the company with the IOC which makes it an official worldwide Olympic partner and the official chemical company for the Olympic movement up to 2020.
As part of the agreement, Dow will also partner the IOC and the National Olympic Committees around the world, including India's. “Our view must, therefore, also take into account the impact the Dow-IOC agreement will have on our National Olympic Committee. We will also have to take into account what would be our stand in case we want to bid for the 2020 Olympics,'' a senior Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry official remarked.
“The Chairman of the London Olympics, Sebastian Coe, conveyed to the Indian mission that they had examined the legal liability of Dow and are quite satisfied with the sponsorship decision and offered to make a presentation for the Mission on the issue. The Mayor of London has indicated that they would like to know our thinking in this matter, given the importance of the relations between India and the United Kingdom,” the note states.
‘Highlight issue sensitivity'
“We are asking the Mission in London to highlight the sensitivity of the issue and the strong public opinion in India and also seek presentation from the London Olympics Organising Committee and share the presentation with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports,” the note concludes.
The Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry has written to IOA acting president Vijay Kumar Malhotra expressing concern about the status of the contentious company as the official worldwide Olympic partner.
“The matter of Dow's liability, in respect of the Bhopal Gas tragedy victims is sub judice and that the Government of India has itself filed a suit against the company. Strong public sentiment exists in this matter and a number of eminent ex-Olympians have also raised concerns. In the light of the above, we advise the Indian Olympic Association to raise this matter immediately with the IOC while keeping the government informed,” the letter states.