Indian government enters row over Dow Chemical’s Olympic sponsorship

• Ministers ask IOA to take up matter with London organisers
• Concerns over chemical company’s links to Bhopal disaster

Olympic stadium wrap

Dow Chemical is paying £7m for a wrap which will cover the Olympic Stadium during the Games. Photograph: Dow Chemical/AP

The Indian government has asked its Olympic association to raise the issue of the London Games‘ sponsorship deal with Dow Chemical, the latest sign of pressure on organisers to reconsider involvement of a company linked to the Bhopal gas disaster.

„We have written a letter to the IOA [Indian Olympic Association], asking them to take up the matter with the organisers of the London Olympics,“ a spokesman for the sports ministry said.

Many Bhopal victims and activists hold Dow responsible for failing to give enough compensation to victims of the 1984 gas leak which killed thousands and injured hundreds of thousands more. The pesticide plant was owned by Union Carbide, which settled its liabilities with the Indian government in 1989 by paying $470m (£300.3m) for Bhopal victims.

Dow bought Union Carbide a decade after the company had settled with the Indian government and now finds itself in the firing line for its sponsorship of a temporary decorative wrap around the 2012 stadium.

The sponsorship has caused anger across India, but nowhere more so than the central state of Madhya Pradesh, where the chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, is urging the Indian government to boycott the Olympics. Bhopal is the provincial capital.

Chauhan says that instead of sponsoring the Games, the company should spend that money on Bhopal survivors. The Indian government last year demanded more than $1.7bn (£1.1bn) additional compensation for the victims of the gas leak.

Activists say 25,000 people died in the immediate aftermath of the accident and in ensuing years, and about 100,000 people who were exposed to the gas continue to suffer today from ailments that range from cancer and blindness to birth defects.

Every year, victims and their families stage demonstrations and Chauhan led protests last week with a letter to the sports minister, Ajay Maken, requesting him to boycott the Games.

„There is no question of boycotting the Games of course,“ the spokesman added.