Indian Olympic head: No London boycott discussed

India’s Olympic committee said Monday the country was not

considering boycotting the London Games despite growing anger at a

sponsorship deal with Dow Chemicals and its links to the company

blamed for the Bhopal poison gas disaster in 1984.

Indian athletes, rights groups and local government officials

have urged the Olympic organizers to sever their relationship with

Dow out of sensitivity to the victims of the world’s worst

industrial disaster.

Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the chief minister of the state of Madhya

Pradesh where Bhopal is located, has asked India’s sports minister

to boycott the games, which begin in July. However, the acting

president of the Indian Olympic Association, Vijay Kumar Malhotra,

said India had no intention of doing so.

”At the moment, there is no talk of a boycott,” he said.

”There are concerns being expressed in the country by some

former Olympians and the chief minister of the state where this

tragedy happened,” he said. ”The idea is to convey the concern

about it (to the organizers) and to ask them to reconsider it.

That’s all.”

An estimated 15,000 people died and tens of thousands were

maimed when poisonous gas leaked from the Union Carbide factory in

Bhopal in central India. Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide in 2001

but denies responsibility for Carbide’s Bhopal liabilities.

Dow maintains it never owned or operated the Bhopal plant and

that legal claims regarding the gas leak were resolved when Union

Carbide paid $470 million as compensation for those killed or

injured. The Indian government is seeking an additional $1.7

billion for the victims.

Last week, 21 Indian athletes sent a letter to the organizing

committee for the 2012 London Games asking it to scrap Dow’s

sponsorship and the company’s planned curtain-style wrap that would

encircle a stadium.

Five Bhopal victims’ rights groups also demanded the scrapping

of the sponsorship deal, saying it would give undue publicity to a

company that was refusing to clean up the toxic contamination of

soil and groundwater in Bhopal.

The International Olympic Committee has defended Dow, saying it

is ”a global leader in its field of business and is committed to

good corporate citizenship.” The London Olympic organizing

committee has said it will not change its position on Dow’s

sponsorship.