Tuesday 31 July 2012

Afshin Rattansi - Double Standards

Olympic destruction and resignation

Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke thinks gold maybe better than Libor rates after all. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joins al-Qaida in Syria. We also talk to Meredith Alexander, Policy Chief at Action Aid, about why she resigned as a London Olympics 2012 Commissioner over sponsorship of the London games. These and much more are all reviewed in this edition of Double Standards with Afshin Rattansi.


Bhopal victims stage their own 'Olympics' in protest against Dow Chemicals

27 July, 2012

Dozens of disabled kids affected by the 1984 Bhopal disaster, one of the world’s worst-ever industrial catastrophes, have held their own Games to protest against the London Olympics sponsorship by Dow Chemical.

The children, aged five to 16 and cheered by their nearest and dearest, have participated in 10 sports in Bhopal during the “Special Olympics". The move was aimed to attract attention to the responsibilities of the company, which has a contract with the IOC until 2020 and, in particular, is a sponsor of London Olympics.

Dow Chemical has repeatedly denied any involvement in the tragedy and refuses to add to the $470-million compensation paid out in 1989.

The Bhopal "Olympics" kicked off with children suffering from cerebral palsy, partial paralysis and mental disabilities parading in wheelchairs and walking with the assistance of others around an outdoor stadium in the shadow of the old pesticide plant.

One of the competitions was called "the crab walk": three children who were unable to stand propelled themselves down the 25-meter racecourse with their hands.

And one little boy was running back and forth on the field even when no race was on.

"The children are born like this because of the gas," Kesar Bai, a 45-year-old mother from a slum near the old pesticide plant, told AFP. She firmly believes that the disaster and its long-standing influence caused her son Pratap's severe cerebral palsy.

"I was thinking 'If there hadn't been this tragedy, then so many would not be born like this'," she said, adding that in the area around her shack there were 10-12 ill kids.

An Indian mother of a disabled child suffering the effects of the 1984 Bhopal disaster, cries during a "Special Olympics" in Bhopal on July 26, 2012 (AFP Photo / Prakash Singh)

Jamila Bi brought her wheelchair-bound 11-year-old grandson Amaan to take part.

"Today these children are participating, in spite of what Union Carbide did to them," Bi told AP. "We are happy that they will walk. Those people will see that in spite of what they did these children are still participating."

Some 25,000 residents of Bhopal died in the aftermath of a massive 1984 gas leak in a pesticide factory owned by the American company Union Carbide.
Immediately after tonnes of toxic gas leaked, survivors remember the slums surrounding the pesticide plant being packed with people, many unconscious, vomiting or frothing at the mouth.

"We woke up at 2am in the night. Everyone was running. If you fell down, they ran over you," Bai remembers.

In 2001, Union Carbide liable for the disaster was purchased by Dow Chemical.
The latter, however, has done little to improve the situation in the disaster-stricken zone.

According to activists’ estimates, 500,000 people are still suffering from illnesses developed after the tragedy, including cancer, blindness and various birth defects.

"We have been protesting against Dow's sponsorship [of the Olympic Games] for a year now; we want them to be dropped," organizers' spokeswoman Rachna Dhingra told Reuters. "But we have realized this is not going to happen."

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