NGOs campaigning for the victims of the Bhopal gas disaster Thursday held a ‘Special Olympics’ as a protest against the company deemed responsible, Dow Chemical, a sponsor of the Olympic Games that started Friday in London.
The participants – all victims – competed in softball, crab-walking and wheelchair races close to the now abandoned Union Carbide plant that caused 20,000 deaths after a methyl-isocyanate leak in 1982. Dow Chemical later took over Union Carbide.
“I could have been among those competing in the Olympic Games but due to the gas tragedy I am here,” said participant Sitesh Lakhara, a 12-year-old boy who was born handicapped as a result of the disaster.
He uses a wheelchair and has difficulty speaking.
Lakhara’s mother, who still suffers from memory loss and asthma due to pollution in the air and water, said it was important to come to the event to lodge their protest against Dow Chemical.
The US-based company is due to sponsor the Olympics for a decade, a deal which campaigner Rachna Dhingra said was unacceptable in light of what happened in Bhopal.
“We will keep demanding termination [of the sponsorship deal] even after the Games are over,” she said.
The International Olympic Committee has defended its sponsorship deal with Dow Chemical, saying that the company played no role in the Bhopal gas tragedy.