Protests mount, so does pressure on Olympic Games organisers

Vidya Ram London | Updated on November 15, 2017

Ms Meredith Alexander

Pressure is mounting on the International Olympic Committee and the body organising the 2012 London Games over the companies sponsoring the Games. A coalition of campaign organisations came together on Monday to call for Dow Chemicals, Rio Tinto and BP to stop using the event to ‘greenwash' their reputations.

The launch of the group, Greenwash Gold, named after the award its organisers hope to bestow on the company judged to have the worst human rights and environmental track record marks an escalation in the protests, which have largely been happening around the individual companies.

Combined efforts

Greenwash Gold hopes the combined efforts will encourage public debate on the suitability of the games sponsors, challenging the contention of its organisers that it is the greenest Games ever.

“The companies themselves and the IOC have presented one side of the story. We are here to present to the public the other side of the story and we are asking members of the public to vote to select which of the three is the least appropriate to be connected with the London 2012 Games,” said Ms Meredith Alexander, who resigned as a member of the Commission for Sustainable London 2012 over Dow Chemical's role in the Games. The medal for the worst offender would be presented during the Games, she said.

“Its certainly given more power to the campaign” says Mr Colin Toogood, from the Bhopal Medical Appeal.

At a meeting in the east end of London, the group brought in activists from Mongolia to Mississippi to speak about their concerns about the three companies, and screened short animated films about the way communities had been affected by the companies activities.

Call to reclaim values

Ms Cherise Udell, who founded Salt Lake City-based campaign group Utah Moms for Clean Air, expressed her dismay that metal from a Rio Tinto mine in her state —which activists hold responsible for a large number of premature deaths a year — would be used to make the Olympic medals, while Mr Derrick Evans, from Turkey Creek on the Mississippi Gulf Coast expressed the mix of amusement and bafflement he experienced when he learnt that BP had been selected as the 2012 Sustainability Partner.

Ms Farah Khan, who had been in Bhopal at the time of the chemical disaster, called on the public to help reclaim the values of the Olympics.

Rio Tinto said Tuesday that it had rigorous standards for air quality, ecosystems, biodiversity, climate change, the use of energy, land and water disposal, while BP said it was a ‘proud sponsor' of the Games. Dow Chemicals said it was ‘unfortunate that some people are choosing to misrepresent the facts regarding important issues'.

Future games

While the campaign was focused on the current Olympics, Greenwash Gold hopes the movement will continue to put pressure on future Olympic Games, encouraging its organisers to think more about the relations with sponsors, including at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics, and the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang

Brazil and South Korea have great protest movements and strong civil societies with a history of bringing ethical and sustainable issues to the fore, said Ms Alexander. Times have changed and the IOC needs to change with that and stop looking at just the dollar signs when it comes to signing sponsorship deals and start actually living the Olympic Values.

Published on April 17, 2012

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