Even as the world prepares to witness the spectacle of the London Olympics starting Friday, victims and survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy have decided to pre-empt the organisers of the London Olympics by holding the “Bhopal Special Olympics” in Bhopal on Thursday.
Five survivor organizations, led by the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA), will be jointly organizing “Bhopal Special Olympics” on July 26, a day ahead of the London Olympics to oppose sponsorship of the Olympic Games by Dow Chemical-the current owner of Union Carbide Corporation-which “continues to evade civil, criminal and environmental liabilities of Bhopal inherited from Union Carbide”.
Children born with disabilities as a fallout of the world's worst industrial disaster, would be participating in the “Bhopal Olympics” to counter Dow Chemical’s attempts to “green wash its crimes through the sponsorship of the Olympic Games”, representatives of the five organizations said here.
The Bhopal Olympics, with the theme “From East India Company to the Dow Chemical Company”, will be held in a stadium right behind the abandoned Union Carbide factory that continues to leach carcinogenic chemicals in the local groundwater, causing birth defects in children even today.
The games will start at 10.30 am on Thursday in the Arif Nagar stadium behind the abandoned Union Carbide factory.
Children affected by this toxic contamination will participate in sporting events such as “crab race”, “25 metres sprint” and “assisted walking”, all aimed at bringing out the plight of those who continue to live in the shadow of the tragedy that shook Bhopal from its slumber on the intervening night of 2nd and 3rd December 1984.
“Contrary to the opening ceremony of the London Olympics that is expected to highlight all that a British citizen could be proud of, the Bhopal Special Olympics will open with songs and dances focusing on matters that British people could be ashamed of,” Rachna Dhingra of the BGIA told The Hindu.
The opening ceremony will draw attention to the many famines caused during the British rule in India, the mass hangings following the “first battle for Indian independence in 1857”, the massacre at Jalianwala Bagh in 1919 and last but not the least, to the support extended by the British Prime Minister to the Dow Chemical Company.
Over the last one year, victims have been campaigning to get Dow Chemical dropped as a sponsor of the games, an effort that even found favour with the Government of India and the Government of Madhya Pradesh. However, the LOCOG and the IOC have backed Dow Chemical throughout the controversy, holding the company “not responsible” for the tragedy and even hailing it as “an industry leader in terms of operating with the highest standards of ethics and sustainability”.
“The London Olympics 2012 has laid to rest the spirit of Olympism-namely the quest for world peace, environmental sustainability and health through sport,” said Ms. Dhingra.
Through the counter-Olympics, victims seek to “underline the irony of a corporation that has disabled thousands of children in Bhopal, Vietnam, Nicaragua, New Zealand, USA and other countries, sponsoring the Olympic Games-an event that celebrates human physical effort”.