A coalition of environmental and human rights groups have launched a new online campaign here focusing on, what they claim, are the “worst” Olympic sponsors in a move set to increase the pressure on Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of London 2012.
The campaign titled “Greenwash Gold 2012” is chaired by Meredith Alexander, who resigned from her senior role on the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 (CSL) in protest to Dow’s involvement in the Games.
Alexander, who is head of policy at charity ActionAid UK, claimed that she stepped down from her unpaid position because of Dow’s links to the 1984 Bhopal disaster.
Dow bought United States chemical firm Union Carbide, whose Bhopal plant in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh leaked toxic gases in 1984, killing thousands of people in the world’s worst industrial accident.
Following the Bhopal disaster, Union Carbide settled its liabilities with the Indian Government in 1989 by paying $470 million (£310 million/€351 million) for Bhopal victims and even though Dow bought Union Carbide a decade after the compensation deal, the company has been criticized for being a worldwide sponsor of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“It was a really hard choice for me to step down from the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 but when we were forced to give a statement legitimizing Dow as a sustainable company, it was something I could not do because it was something that I absolutely disagreed with,” Alexander told insidethegames.
“It was shortly after my resignation that I was asked to get involved with Greenwash Gold to look at Dow along with BP, who have a very bad climate change track record and Rio Tinto, who have a long history of problematic mining and negative relationships with the communities where they operate.
“One of the organizers of the campaign asked if I would chair it and I was thrilled because as much as I feel very strongly about Dow, the broader problem is that the IOC puts money ahead of everything when it comes to sponsorship.”
Other sponsors linked to the Olympics criticized by the group include Adidas, Atos Origin, BT, Cola-Cola, G4S and EDF.
“The Olympic ideals and the values on which the Olympic Movement were founded have no place in the negotiations,” said Alexander.
“Greenwash Gold is about highlighting the way in which the selection of the Olympic sponsors has no relationship with any ethical, environmental or social criteria.
“I also hope the campaign speaks directly to the public because companies are using their sponsorship of the Olympics to whitewash their history.
“They are using the Olympic flag to hide the secrets of their past but it is imperative that people don’t just see the PR spin.
“They need to see the truth behind these companies.”
Members of communities impacted by the three Olympic sponsors, from all over the world, attended the launch event to criticize the sponsors.
They include a survivor of the Bhopal disaster, a representative from the Gulf Coast where BP’s catastrophic oil spill in 2010 took place and a community representative from Mongolia, where a Rio Tinto mine proving metal for medals is accused of exploiting scarce water resources in a desert region.
During the London 2012 Olympics, the organizers of the campaign will award “worst sponsor” medals to one of the three sponsors, based on the results of the public voting.
“I urge the public to vote for the sponsor that they think is the least ethical and we have some interesting plans up our sleeve for presenting that award,” said Alexander.
“For me, Dow Chemical is the most obvious example of the way that the sponsors are not vetted by the IOC but if I were voting purely based on the clips that demonstrate the problems on the new website, I would vote for BP.”
“I just hope people engage.
“People are hearing one side of the story from the IOC and from London 2012 but people must understand both parts of the story.
“Unfortunately, money talks and organizations like the IOC are very powerful and have huge resources.
“But hopefully this campaign will make an impact and make the IOC be far more true to their core values when selecting sponsors.”
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Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com. Inside the Games is an online blog affiliated with the Organizing Committee for the London Summer Olympics. The blog deals with stories about the impact of money and politics on the Olympic movement. This article is reprinted here with permission. Readers can find more articles by going to the blog at http://www.insidethegames.biz/.