An Indian official has asked the country's sports minister to boycott the London Olympics amid concerns over a sponsorship deal with Dow Chemical Co. and the company's connection to the world's worst industrial disaster.
An estimated 15,000 people died and tens of thousands were maimed when poisonous gas leaked from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal in central India in 1984. Dow bought Union Carbide in 2001 but denies responsibility for Carbide's Bhopal liabilities.
Shivraj Singh Chauhan asked Sports Minister Ajay Maken to boycott the London Olympics in a letter Wednesday night. Chauhan is the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, where Bhopal is located.
Dow has always maintained that it did not own or operate the Bhopal plant and that legal claims regarding the gas leak were resolved when Union Carbide paid $470 million as compensation for those killed or injured. The Indian government is seeking an additional $1.7 billion for the victims.
Earlier this month, 21 Indian Olympic athletes urged the organizers of the London event to end Dow's sponsorship of a curtain-style wrap that will encircle a London stadium where some Olympic events will be held.
London Olympic organizers have said they will not change their position on Dow's sponsorship.
Five Bhopal victims' rights groups have also demanded the scrapping of the sponsorship deal, saying it would give undue publicity to a company that was refusing to clean up the toxic contamination of soil and groundwater in Bhopal.
The Indian government has so far not commented on the matter and there was no immediate response from the sports ministry Thursday.