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Bhopal bother for Olympics

Maken

New Delhi, Nov. 30: The Centre appears in a quandary over calls for boycott of next year’s London Olympics on the ground that the games have Dow Chemical Company, linked to the Bhopal gas tragedy, as one of the sponsors.

The pullout clamour has come from Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and 21 ex-Olympians, who have written separate letters to Union sports minister Maken recently reminding him of the US giant’s link with the tragedy.

But neither the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) nor the sports ministry is sure whether to lodge a protest with the London Olympics Organising Committee. Maken has not spoken his mind yet.

Dow is set to foot the bill for a temporary decorative wrap over London’s Olympic Stadium. The sponsorship is worth 7 million (over Rs 56 crore).

The liabilities related to the Bhopal disaster have not been fully settled by Dow, which bought the Union Carbide plant a few years after the gas leak that killed nearly 3,000 people in December 1984.

The ministry has approached the cabinet secretariat to finalise the line. But sources said the cabinet secretariat had asked the ministry to consult the ministry of external affairs.

“As the sports ministry, we can’t ask our athletes to not to play in an international event. It is for the government as a whole to decide whether it wants to oppose Dow’s sponsorship,” said a ministry official.

The IOA claimed a decision would have to wait till a scheduled meeting of the association next week. “We are talking to all stakeholders. We will keep the Union government in the loop,” acting IOA president Vijay Kumar Malhotra said. Malhotra, like chief minister Chauhan, is from the BJP.