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Chiang Mai Citylife > Articles > 2012 > 2012 Issue 07 > Agent Orange’s DOW in Trouble with Vietnam over Olympics

Agent Orange’s DOW in Trouble with Vietnam over Olympics

It is the world’s biggest sporting event. TV programming in at least 150 countries will provide saturation coverage. Men and women from all races and religions will compete for Olympic glory and gold.

Added to the usual extolling of lofty Olympic ideals (long undermined by doping scandals in so many international events) this year the organisers are bragging about the ‘Green Games’. Public relations hype is regurgitating extraordinary claims that it will be the most environmentally friendly Olympics since the halcyon days of Ancient Greece.

So much for the hype. Just glance at the Who’s Who among the mega-corporations sponsoring this sporting extravaganza, and a far from eco-friendly line-up emerges.

The sponsors include BP, the oil giant that has inflicted massive oil sprills on the world’s oceans, and Rio Tinto Zinc another resource extraction behemoth. Rights groups say they both have woeful environmental, safety and human-rights track records.

But worse of all is Dow Chemicals USA. Dow Chemicals has become the main focus of protests. It has been linked to the worst industrial accident of all time – the Bhopal disaster in India. Around 20,000 people were killed as a result of the Bhopal disaster and even 28 years later Dow Chemicals the owner of the Bhopal site, has still failed to clean-up the toxic mess.

DOW TOOK OVER BHOPAL FACTORY FROM
UNION CARBIDE IN 2001.

Everybody recognises the Dow Chemicals Company has never had any responsibility for the Bhopal accident itself, as at that time it was Union Carbide,another US company that had responsibility for the plant.

Dow bought out Union Carbide in 2001 and so the link to the Bhopal tragedy is based on the legal principle that the new owners not only takeover the assets of the old ompany, but also its liabilities including the toxic legacy left behind by Union Carbide.

Thousands of victims of Bhopal are seeking a just compensation from the new owners on that basis which is recognised by international law.

The Indian government has demanded that Dow be removed from all forms of sponsorship. A chorus of outrage over Bhopal, from victims, campaigners for justice and fair compensation, and their lawyers have demanded the IOC (International Olympic Committee) should immediately sever the links to Dow.

Last month the Vietnamese government joined India with a strong protest letter delivered to the IOC about their own bitter experience with Dow.
The Vietnamese government minister of Culture and Sports wrote: “The Dow Chemical Company is one of the major producers of the Agent Orange, which has been used by the US Army.

80 million litres was sprayed over villages in the South of Vietnam over 10 years, from 1961 to 1971, destroying the environment, claiming the lives of millions of Vietnamese people and leaving terrible effects on millions of others, now suffering from incurable diseases and some hundreds of thousands of children of the fourth generation, were born with severe congenital deformities.

Dow Chemical expressed their indifference and refused compensation for victims of the Agent Orange produced by the company. They have expressed indifference as well to their responsibility to clean up contaminated areas. Spending zero effort to recover their mistakes in the past, Dow continues to destroy the current living environment. In 2010, US Environmental Protection Agency listed Dow as the second worst polluter in the world.”

The Vietnam Minister Hoang Tuan Anh’s letter continued, “Since the ultimate goals of the Olympic Movement are to promote good health, equality and progress of mankind, we think that the acceptance of IOC for Dow sponsorship was a hasty decision”.

Signed by Hoang Tuan Anh, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism letter to the IOC 02/05/12.

Scot Wheeler, a Dow spokesman, dismissed the Vietnamese letter as both “misguided” and “wrongly focused”.

The IOC responded “The [IOC] does not enter into agreements with any organisation that it believes does not work in accordance with the values of the Olympic Movement as set forth in the Olympic Charter,” the IOC said in a statement emailed to Vietweek magazine.

The Olympic body also noted that the partnership agreement with Dow was signed in 2010, and before that, the IOC had “studied carefully” the history of the company.

Well; how much they even studied Dow’s recent record is open to question, as a 5 minute search on Google would have revealed that the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 listed Dow as the second worst polluter in the world.

The IOC declared their confidence in Dow as a “global leader in its field of business” and said the company was “committed to good corporate citizenship.”

Meredith Alexander, a member of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 set up to monitor the London Olympics, resigned over the IOC’s lame acceptance of Dow’s public relations line, denying any legal or moral responsibility for the victims of Bhopal.

“I had been providing information about Bhopal to commission members and I was stunned that it publicly repeated Dow’s line that it bears no responsibility for Bhopal,” Alexander wrote in the Guardian (26.1.12). ” I was shocked to see that the result of our investigation was a public statement from the commission that essentially portrays Dow as a responsible company.”

“But the Olympics is also big business. There is an expensive machine behind the Games that is funded by corporate sponsors. Sadly when these sponsors are selected, money talks much more loudly than values.”

Dow Chemicals, which has committed to provide the IOC with $10 million over four years, expects to reap a financial bonanza from its sponsorship.
From its urethane foam in the track, polymer fibres in the super-fast hockey pitches, materials in walls, floors and roofs of stadia and insulation technology in the broadcast and electricity wiring cables to technology in the signage in the controversial Games Lanes, the company’s hands are all over London 2012.

Dow Chemicals inked a 10-year deal with the IOC in 2010. The agreement calls for the US-based outfit to fork out $100 million every four years as a chief sponsor of the Summer, Winter and the Paralympics Games.

But the bottom line from the company board’s point of view is according to vice president George Hamilton, “Show me the money.”

The BBC in January 2012 detailed the full extent of Dow products being used in the London Olympics. For example urethane foam in the track and polymer fibres. The BBC reported that during the 10 years of Dow’s Olympic sponsorship, it is estimated there will be £97bn ($150bn) spent on Olympic Games – building stadiums, venues, athletes’ villages, roads and bridges, making a big marketing opportunity for a company ubiquitous in the field.

Dow envisioned a global sales bump of about $1 billion by promoting, ironically enough, a raft of environmentally-friendly products.
The 2012 London Olympics have already been tarnished long before the games have begun. Given its record in delivering Agent Orange to defoliate tropical rainforest on a massive scale during the Vietnam War under contract to the Pentagon and the US army, no amount of hype can conceal their ugly history as manufacturers of eco-cidal products, that inflicted a carcinogenic nightmare on the jungles of Indochina and unleashed a chemical warfare based on dioxin on the civilian population in rural areas of South Vietnam.

“The modern Olympics was founded here in the UK to promote peace and understanding between the peoples of the world. The Olympic values are all about celebrating our common humanity,” in the words of Meredith Alexander who resigned over the IOC’s abject infatuation with Dow and its dollars.

Perhaps nothing is more twisted than the concept that the corporation whose products – Agent Orange and Napalm – that maimed and crippled so many Vietnamese will be sponsoring the Paralympics.

Here is the response from the Vietnamese victims of Dow.

“It’s ironic that Dow is allowed to sponsor sporting events including Paralympics athletes when it is responsible for creating generations of severely disabled children and refuses to do anything to help them,” wrote a Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin spokesman in an email. “Allowing such a company to sponsor the Olympics and Paralympics – a cultural event of global magnitude, is an affront to the conscience of humankind.” VAVA [The Vietnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange based in Hanoi who organised a class action lawsuit in the US courts against Dow Chemicals and Monsanto Corporation.]

Dr. Geraldine Schick, UCLA/Canadian – Swimming

As a medical doctor and former UCLA swim team member I am deeply concerned by the IOC’s decision to allow Dow Chemicals to become a sponsor of the Olympics. Athletes, in the eyes of most, are the embodiment of health. When the second worst polluter of toxic substances in America for 2010 is entrusted by the IOC to be part of this supposedly healthy and ethical sports event, I begin to lose my faith in the Olympic movement. I hope the IOC decides to implement the same standards towards sponsors as it does for other participants of the Olympic Games.

Brian Fell, American Record Holder – Track and Field

Please remember all the hard work, dedication and years it takes for each Olympic sport! Please value the pressure and ideals placed upon every athlete from the strict IOC rules and regulations and place this same magnifying lens on the sponsorships who you decide to partner with. Please do not tarnish these coming games by letting Dow Chemicals anywhere near the Olympic family and brand. If money is the only interest with Dow, then the backlash will soon follow heading into 2012 games.

Abdoul K Mbaye Niane, Senegal National Team Member – Swimming

As a former Senegal swimming team member, I oppose Dow Chemical sponsorship of the Olympic Games London 2012.

Marilyn Chua, Olympian, Malaysian National Team Member – Swimming

As an Olympian for the Malaysian National Team and UCLA Swim Team member, I am disgusted that Dow Chemical has been chosen to be a sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics after the thousands of lives they have killed and destroyed all over the world! They do not deserve to be associated with all that the Olympics stand for!

+ “The modern Olympics was founded here in the UK to promote peace and understanding between the peoples of the world. The Olympic values are all about celebrating our common humanity,” said Alexander following her resignation, in a report by The Guardian (UK daily).

+ The US government’s Veterans Administration officially recognises 13 medical conditions linked to Agent Orange and provides free medical treatment to US soldiers who can prove their exposure to the herbicide. But Washington has adamantly denied all responsibility and evaded any kind of accountability for the estimated four million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians who suffered far greater exposure to the dioxin than the US war veterans.

+ In 2005, a US court predictably rejected the Vietnamese claim for massive compensation in respect of war crimes and crimes against humanity inflicted on the civilian population. It is still being appealed in the US courts.

+ The Vietnamese Red Cross estimates that up to 3 million Vietnamese have been affected by Agent Orange, including at least 300,000 children born with birth defects.

+ Athletes against the Olympics
Another campaign also was activated by thousands of athletes and NGOs around the world to call for the organisers of Olympics 2012 to end ties with Dow Chemicals (http://athletesagainstdowchemical.wordpress.com/). The website writes: “We, former and competing athletes, national team members and Olympians, do not feel that Dow Chemical embodies the spirit and humanity of the Olympic movement.”