Olympics ethics panel commissioner quits over Dow sponsorship (Lead)

January 26th, 2012 - 8:37 pm ICT by IANS  

London/Bhopal, Jan 26 (IANS) Meredith Alexander, a prominent member of the independent watchdog that monitors the sustainability of the 2012 London Games, has resigned to protest Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship of the Olympic Stadium wrap.

Alexander, who was one of the 13 Ethics Commissioners for the Games, late Wednesday quit her unpaid role, protesting against the 7 million pound sponsorship deal with the chemical giant, which is linked to Union Carbide, the company responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster that claimed thousands of lives.

Her step was welcomed by organisations representing the Bhopal victims, who lauded her courage while asking Indian leaders to fight against Dow’s sponsorship more actively.

Dow’s association with the London Olympics has angered human rights campaigners.

“I don’t want to be party to a defence of Dow Chemicals, the company responsible for one of the worst corporate human rights violations in my generation. It is appalling that 27 years on, the site has still not been cleaned up and thousands upon thousands of people are still suffering. I believe people should be free to enjoy London 2012 without this toxic legacy on their conscience,” Alexander said.

Her resignation comes after organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe defended Dow’s sponsorship deal, saying the company had no involvement with Bhopal at the time of the disaster or when the final compensation settlement was agreed.

The Ethics Commission said in a statement: “Sorry to confirm the resignation of Commissioner Meredith Alexander, whose remit covered supply chains and behaviour change.”

It added: “Meredith has stated that the reason for her resignation is that she does not feel she can remain with the commission in light of Locog’s appointment of Dow Chemicals as the stadium wrap supplier, and the commission fully respects her decision to leave on this basis.”

The commission is partly funded by the organising committee and was formed in 2007 to oversee the sustainability standards of the Olympic delivery bodies.

Shaun McCarthy, the commission chairman, said that while the commission wholeheartedly agrees that human rights are of paramount importance, it is not something the organisation is empowered to handle.

In Bhopal, the five organisations who work for the cause of gas survivors Thursday felicitated Alexander by placing a bouquet of pink roses before her picture.

“At least, she (Alexander) had the courage to take such strong step even being in London. But, it also exposes our officials and leaders who have no gut to take such bold step in protest against Dow Chemicals,” Abdul Jabbar of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sangathan told IANS.

Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Stationery Karmchari Sangh said: “By speaking the truth so boldly Alexander has nailed Dow Chemical’s lies that the London Olympics (organising) committee and its chairman, Lord (Sebastian) Coe, believed and propagated till recently. We hope this will make the committee dump Dow Chemicals as a sponsor of the London Games.”

Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action expressed hope that Alexander’s resignation will prompt the Indian government to express its opposition to Dow Chemical’s sponsorship more effectively.

“To be taken seriously by the London Olympic Committee, the Indian government has to do more than send a protest note. It is time for LOCOG to be told that India will not take part in the London Olympics if it continues to be sponsored by a corporation responsible for continuing death and suffering in Bhopal,” she said.

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