November 28, 2011
Indian athletes are threatening to boycott next summer’s London Olympics in an extraordinary stand-off with the head of the 2012 Games, Lord Coe, over his controversial sponsorship deal with a chemical company.
Lord Coe is under personal attack for signing the deal with Dow Chemical – under fire in India for its ownership of Union Carbide, whose Indian subsidiary was responsible for the Bhopal industrial disaster, one of the world’s worst, estimated to have killed up to 25,000 people and injured over half a million.
The former Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, who worked closely with Lord Coe to win the Olympics for London, last night called on the former British Olympian to cancel the deal with Dow before the controversy irreparably damages the standing of the 2012 Games. Ms Jowell told The Independent: “There is a point at which you have to say you cannot take the reputational risk.”
Lord Coe has one week to talk the Indian Olympic Association out of a boycott: on 5 December athletes and sports bosses in the world’s second-most populous country will meet to vote on walking out of the London Games. Both the British and Indian governments will be asked to intervene to stave off the boycott as international outrage from politicians, athletes and human-rights groups mounts. A boycott by India, which does not boast a history of great Olympic success but has significant business and cultural links to the UK, would be a major embarrassment for Britain.