Sponsoring for the London 2012 Olympics


The Olympic motto may be Faster, Higher, Stronger but this summer in London, games organizers have pledged they'll also be greener. Now, a coalition of human rights and environmental groups is protesting the sponsorships of Dow, BP and Rio Tinto arguing their so-called Sustainability is mere greenwashing and that the Olympics are more concerned about getting out of the red.

Part Three of The Current

Sponsoring for the London 2012 Olympics - Bhopal Explosion Survivor

We started this segment with some of the startling reports following the environmental disaster at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India in 1984. Its estimated that three thousand people died immediately and thousands more succumbed later. The Indian government estimates the leak caused thousands of permanently disabling injuries and hundreds of thousands of other lesser injuries.

Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide in 2001, and Dow claims the legal case was resolved in 1989. It says responsibility for continued cleanup falls to the local government. But Dow's responsibility in the aftermath of Bhopal has come under the spotlight anew. That's because Dow is one of the top sponsors of the 2012 London Olympics -- an event that aspires to be the most sustainable Olympic games yet. Some activists think Dow Chemical and some other corporations have no business sponsoring a sustainable Olympics.

Farah Edwards-Khan is one of those activists. She was just ten years old when her family was shaken awake in their Bhopal home. We reached her in Brighton, England.

Sponsoring for the London 2012 Olympics - Charity Action Aid

Farah Edwards Khan joins a coalition of groups that unveiled a new campaign this week. It targets Dow Chemical and two other controversial Olympic sponsors: BP, the oil company responsible for the DeepWater Horizon oil spill and Rio Tinto, the mining company with many Canadian operations.

The campaign accuses the companies of "greenwashing" unethical corporate activities, and using the Olympic brand to polish their names. And its organizers are urging people to vote online for what they dub "the worst corporate sponsor of the Olympics". The winner takes the "Greenwash Gold medal".

Meredith Alexander chairs this coalition. She quit her post on the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 over the choices for the Olympic sponsors. Meredith Alexander is currently with the charity Action Aid, and she was in London this morning.

As we mentioned earlier, Dow Chemical turned down a chance to talk to us today - as did BP and Rio Tinto. The International Olympic Committee referred us to the London 2012 Organizing Committee, which in turn declined our request for an interview.

Sponsoring for the London 2012 Olympics - 2008 Marketing Officer

The Olympic motto is Faster, Higher, Stronger. And it's had to become Wealthier, as well, in order to properly stage a world class event. The IOC has turned to big corporations for sponsorship and cash.

Rick Burton was the chief marketing officer for the United States Olympic Committee at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is the David Falk Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University. We reached him in Syracuse.

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar, Lara O'Brien and Alex Boyd.

Related Links:

Rio Tinto, Dow Chemicals, BP targets in campaign against Olympics sponsors By: Ashley O'Connor - The Times

Dow Chemical's Olympic PR push dogged by Bhopal By: Ernest Scheyder - Reuters

Protest groups target Olympics sponsors with new campaign By: Owen Gibson - The Guardian

Watchdog commissioner quits over Dow Chemical's 2012 stadium wrap By: Owen Gibson - The Guardian

Olympic Protesters Target Dow's $100 Million Sponsorship By: Fred Dreier- Forbes

Last Word - Dow Chemical Hoax

We've been talking this morning about the the tragedy at Union Carbide's plant in Bhopal, India. The case was also the target of a great journalistic prank. On the twentieth anniversary of the disaster, in 2004, the BBC interviewed a spokesman for Dow Chemical, which took over Union Carbide.

Only he wasn't really a Dow spokesperson. He was a member of the Yes Men, activists well-known for their hoaxes. He must have been convincing; according to The Guardian newspaper, Dow shares lost two billion dollars before the interview was revealed to be a prank. On today's Last Word, a little of the fake Dow official making spectacular promises he couldn't keep.

Other segments from today's show:

Unwanted Acquitted Rwandans

Is Dr. Jim Yong Kim right for the job?

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