Olympic organisers should consider the ethical, environmental and human rights records of multinational companies before awarding them lucrative sponsorship deals, according to London’s elected politicians.
The London Assembly today passed a motion criticising the International Olympic Committee’s selection of Dow Chemical Company as a worldwide partner, in a deal said to be worth $100m over 10 years.
The Assembly said that the decision to do business with Dow, which is the 100 per cent shareholder of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), whose Indian subsidiary was responsible for the world’s worst ever industrial disaster in Bhopal, had damaged the reputation of London 2012.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympics and Paralympics Games (Locog) was also criticised today for doing a ‘local deal’ with Dow, to provide decorative wrap for the main stadium which was described by one assembly member as a an “architectural nicety, but totally unnecessary.”
Dow, which denies that it has any responsibility for the Bhopal disaster or outstanding contamination of water and soil in the Indian city, bought UCC in 2001 – 17 years after the gas disaster claimed as many as 25,000 lives.
Several members of the London Assembly said Dow could not absolve legal or moral responsibilities with regards to Bhopal.
Darren Johnson, Green Party member, said: “Dow was not involved at the time and did not own the Union Carbide plant at the time. But it now owns the company wholly, including those subsidiaries involved the water contamination today, and so it cannot absolve those liabilities because of a take-over a deal.”
Labour’s Navin Shah, who proposed the motion, said: “The issues around Dow’s on-going court cases are complex but they are on-going and very real. The Olympics have become a big business, and money talks in the end. The IOC remains a faceless and shameless organisation, colluding with organisation involved in environmental and human rights abuses.”
Tory member Andrew Boff, whose Party members opposed the motion, accused his Assembly colleagues of relying on media reports rather than the facts. “The idea that Dow Chemicals has a responsibility for the tragedy does not meet the test for natural justice,” said Boff.
Concerns about other major sponsors and Olympic partner such as McDonalds, criticised on the basis of the obesity epidemic, were also raised during the debate. The world biggest McDonalds has been built in the London Olympic park.
Mr Shah said it was too late for London but that the IOC should act for future Games and “[have] criteria for partners that conform to their own priorities and keep out the likes of Dow Chemicals.”
Lib Dem Stephen Knight said the IOC was good at protecting the commercial brand of the Olympics, but not the ethical brand - which should be kept “sacrosanct”.
The following motion was passed with a majority of 16 to seven:
“This Assembly believes that the decision of the IOC to select Dow as a Worldwide Partner has caused damage to the reputation of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This Assembly feels the IOC and national organising committees should consider the environmental, social, ethical, and human rights records of companies when awarding high-profile partnership and sponsorship deals.
The Assembly calls on Locog recommend that the IOC introduces criteria for the selection of worldwide partners and high profile sponsors for future Games that address the principles defined in their Olympic Charter, and that the IOC review their current partnership with Dow in light of those criteria.”
An IOC spokeswoman said: “The IOC only enters into agreements with organisations that it believes work in accordance with the values of the Olympic Movement as set forth in the Olympic Charter.
“Dow is a global leader in its field of business and is committed to good corporate citizenship, and had supported the Olympic Movement for over 30 years.”
A Dow spokesperson said: A Dow spokesperson commented that “misinformed and misdirected allegations and actions” were influencing decisions-makers and that it remains “fully committed” to its partnership with the IOC and the London 2012 Games.
Locog said Dow’s bid for the stadium wrap met its sustainability criteria “by some distance” and the bid “process has been independently validated by the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012.”
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