A victim of the Bhopal gas tragedy who lost his parents and several other members of his family in one of the world’s worst industrial disasters has called for India to boycott the London Olympics to protest Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the Games.
Sanjay Verma, who was born five months before the tragedy which left him an orphan and emotionally scarred for life, said the Dow had ``blood on its hands’’ and its sponsorship undermined the spirit of the Olympics.
India, he said, should officially boycott the Games if the deal was not scrapped.
"Indian Government should boycott the London Olympics and it should be left to individual athletes to participate or not,’’ he told a press conference called by the Indian Journalists’ Association (Europe) on Friday.
Mr Verma, who lost seven members of his family in the tragedy and himself suffered a stroke in 2002 that he suspects was related to the lingering effect of the gas on his system, said he planned to meet Games officials and MPs to press for the Dow sponsorship to be scraped.
"Thousands of people were killed by Dow Chemicals. They have blood on their hand and now the blood is going to the London Olympic. There should not be any business with Dow Chemicals," he said.
Mr Verma urged Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, to visit Bhopal for a first-hand assessment of how little had been done to help the victims.
"I would like to see that the site is cleaned up, victims of the gas tragedy rehabilitated and the victims should have proper treatment," he said.
Barry Gardiner, chairman of the Labour Friends of India, who has been in the forefront of the campaign to against Dow’s sponsorship was against a boycott and said instead the organisers of the Games should be targeted.
"Athletes train for long time for the Games and I don't think boycott of the games will help. Boycott will be absolutely wrong. ..If there are protests, I don't want them to disrupt the athletes. They can target the organisers," he said.
As protesters step up their campaign, a group called ``Greenwash Gold 2012’’ is inviting members of the public to vote online for the “worst corporate sponsor” after watching three animated films about the environmental record of Dow Chemicals, the oil giant BP and Rio Tinto, a multinational metals and mining corporation.
Meredith Alexander, a leading environmentalist who resigned from the Games' ethics committee — the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 — protesting against Dow's sponsorship said the Olympics had become “big business” undermining its original values.
Besides a £7-million deal under which it is funding a fabric wrap for the Olympic stadium in east London, the company has a 10-year sponsorship arrangement with the International Olympic Committee estimated to be worth at least £100 million.
Dow, which bought the Bhopal plant from Union Carbide after the gas tragedy, denies any liability. The Games' organisers have defended the decision to award the contract to Dow, saying it was taken after all the issues were “very carefully” considered.