Bhopal Victims Hold Olympics Protest
July 27, 2012 8:21 am
Five organizations of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster came together for the “Bhopal Special Olympics” yesterday, the day before the official 2012 Olympic Games are set to begin in London. The protest was held to oppose current owners of Union Carbide Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship of the Olympics in what is seen as an attempt to “greenwash” the company.
The participants of Thursday’s Bhopal Special Olympics were children born with disabilities related to gas poisoning. Scheduled events included a crab race, 25 meter sprint, wheelchair race and assisted walking. The event opened with songs and dances focusing on the theme “From East India Company to The Dow Chemical Company,” drawing attention to the abuses of Indian peoples at the hands of the British. The events took place in a stadium behind the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India.
The event was meant to provide a stark contrast to Dow’s efforts to “greenwash” the company with the London Olympics — including the Dow-developed Olympic mascot Hopeiary, a walking man-hedge, whom the company site identifies as “the planet’s representative . . . [for] a greener, more sustainable Olympic Games.”
Dow Chemical has continued to evade civil, criminal and environmental liabilities from the gas leak on December 2, 1984. To this day, Dow disavows that the leaking of methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals was the company’s fault — despite reports of systems malfunctions weeks before the incident — and insist it was the work of a disgruntled worker. According to the government of Madhya Pradesh, the official death toll was 3,787, while other accounts have the number of gas-related diseases, deaths, and permanent injuries in the six figures. Dow has yet to compensate all victims harmed in the incident nor have they cleaned up the toxic waste still lingering in Bhopal almost 30 years later.
In 2004, The Yes Men‘s Andy Bichlbaum went on the BBC World News posing as a Dow representative. In his interview, he claimed that the company had agreed to compensate Bhopal gas leak victims by liquidating Union Carbide. Despite praise from the world community and especially from the Bhopal victims, Dow immediately issued a statement that the interview was a hoax and Dow considered the issue closed. The Yes Men Fix the World (2009) is a film that documented this culture jamming project and — due to the film being sued by the US Chamber of Commerce — is now available for download through bittorrent here.
Image from AmnestyUK