Game Changer

A Bhopal activist recounts his run-in with London Olympics official Sebastian Coe

01 August 2012
Protestors prepare to burn effigies of Sebastian Coe and the Indian Olympic Association’s Vijay K Malhotra in Bhopal in December 2011.
RAFIQ MAQBOOL / AP PHOTO
Protestors prepare to burn effigies of Sebastian Coe and the Indian Olympic Association’s Vijay K Malhotra in Bhopal in December 2011.
RAFIQ MAQBOOL / AP PHOTO

ON 2 DECEMBER 2011, the 27th anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, victims’ rights activists in Bhopal prepared to burn effigies, as they do each year. This time around, they built “a huge multi-headed Olympic monster”, recalled activist Colin Toogood.

Since the announcement of their official corporate sponsorship of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the Dow Chemical Company’s relationship to the Bhopal disaster, considered the worst industrial disaster in history, has become the subject of increased public scrutiny. Last summer, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) announced a controversial deal it had signed with Dow, wherein the corporation will provide and pay for a 900 metre-long fabric wrap (estimated price: £7,000,000) that will surround the Olympic Stadium—the stadium that hosts not only the 2012 Olympic Games, but also the Paralympics, a month later. “And given Dow’s connection not to just Bhopal but to Agent Orange, that’s outrageous,” Toogood said. “It’s a slap in the face to disabled people all over the world.”

Toogood had been a DJ in Shoreditch, London, for 10 years before he joined the Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA), a British medical charity that funds survivors’ groups in Bhopal, after seeing a newspaper ad in 2008 for someone to manage publicity for the upcoming 25th anniversary of the disaster. “I was looking for something really different,” he explained. Ever since, he has been at the centre of the protests against Dow’s sponsorship.

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    Gautama Mehta is a former intern at The Caravan.

    Keywords: activism Bhopal London olympics Gautama Mehta
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