The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Thursday unanimously decided to lodge a “strong protest” to the 2012 London Olympics organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), seeking removal of Dow Chemicals as a sponsor of the Games but said it would not boycott the mega event.
IOA General Body discussed the Dow Chemicals issue threadbare in deliberations which lasted nearly three hours and officials who attended the meeting said the members were not in favour of a boycott of the Games.
“All National Sports Federations and state Olympic Associations unanimously decided to lodge a strong protest to the London Organisers and the IOC for the removal of Dow Chemicals as a sponsor of the Games,” IOA acting president V.K. Malhotra told reporters after the GBM.
“Thousands of our people died in the Bhopal gas tragedy because of a company (Union Carbide) later bought by this company (Dow Chemicals). Olympics is all about love, brotherhood, friendship and humane values and it is unethical and unacceptable under the Olympic Charter that such a tainted company is associated with the Olympic Games,” he said.
Mr. Malhotra also countered London Games Organising Committee Chairman Sebastian Coe’s defence of Dow Chemicals that it had bought Union Carbide 17 years after the gas leak in Bhopal, saying that it (Dow) still has liabilities for the tragedy.
“It has been said that Dow Chemicals bought the original company long after the tragedy but the case is still going on and process of payment of compensation is not yet over. All the liabilities are still on the company (Dow),” said the IOA chief.
Asked if boycotting the London Olympics is an option before the IOA, Mr. Malhotra said, “We did not discuss about a boycott. It’s for the government to take a decision on this.
We will write to the government saying that it’s a sensitive issue and tell us what are the actions it’s going to take.”
Mr. Malhotra said there were suggestions from members that protests should be held in London or athletes wear black arm bands while participating in the Games while others voiced that a boycott would not be in the interest of sportspersons.
“Some said taking part in an Olympics is a life-time dream of athletes and they get very few chance to do that.
There were suggestions that protest march should be held in London and we should wear black arm bands while participating.
“But these are all individual views. We will see what the IOC and London organisers do after our protest. They can change the sponsor if they want. We are hoping that good sense prevail and Dow is removed as a sponsor,” he said.
“We are continuing preparations of our athletes for the Olympics. If we are stopping the preparations, you can say we are boycotting but preparations of our athletes are going on.
We are talking to government and we are also writing about what course of action it will take,” he said.
He said the GBM also took note that several members of British Parliament, including the minister in the earlier government which brought the Games in London, have demanded removal of Dow as a sponsor.
“Britain’s shadow minister for Olympics Tessa Jowell has sought Dow’s removal. Jowell’s views further strengthen our demand for Dow being ousted from the Games. Many people, NGOs, Human Rights Organisations and sportspersons the world over are supporting IOA view.
Asked if the government was trying to corner the IOA by insisting on its view on the boycott issue, Mr. Malhotra said, “The government says they are the final authority to decide on whether to boycott or not. Then why have they sent us three letters so far. Today the Sports Ministry sent us a letter to look into the legal aspect of the Dow-IOC contract.
“Some members wonder why the government is not taking action on Dow which is functioning here with an office. The government has not said anything about the boycott. Why it is insisting on the IOA?” Mr. Malhotra asked.