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Archive for July 21st, 2013

Longer term readers of this blog will remember that I spent quite a bit if time in 2011 and at the start of last year investigating and reporting on Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the Olympic Games.

In what even senior members of the 2012 Games Board later acknowledged was a shocking decision, Lord Coe’s Locog awarded Dow the right to sponsor the Olympic Stadium by funding the decorative fabric wrap.

A series of articles in the Sunday Express and on this blog highlighted some serious questions about the procurement process around that decision. MP Barry Gardiner brilliantly led the charge in the Commons and it eventually became a major frontbench row between then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his Labour opposite, Tessa Jowell.

A dossier of emails I obtained under the FoI Act revealed the idea to withdraw public funds from the wrap and to bring in a private sponsor had actually been Mr Hunt’s own idea.

The row went global and even triggered talk of a Games boycott by India due to Dow’s links to the Bhopal gas disaster.

For Dow, this must have been a worrying time. So worrying, in fact, that it hired Stratfor, a global intelligence consultancy, to spy on me monitor my work. We know this because this humble blog features in the GI Files obtained and published by Wikileaks last year.

Here’s a flavour:

Blog: T Jeory on political opposition to Dow sponsorship 

11/23 Ted Jeory, Express on Sunday’s Whitehall editor, posted on his blog (attached) the stadium wrap sponsorship issue “is starting to enter pretty serious political 
territory” and listed three new developments: 

“1. Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes has today signed up to the cross-[arty [sic] campaign to force Locog to reconsider its decision. he has added his name to a letter that has been sent to Lord Coe, which I’ll detail below. Tory MP Priti Patel is also on board.

“2. Shadow Olympics Minister (& Olympics Board member) Tessa Jowell has stepped up her own rhetoric, a) by writing to the Chair of the Commission for a Sustainable 
London 2012 to demand disclosure of important tender documents around the deal; and b) asking for a meeting with Dow themselves.

“3. Locally, Olympic host borough Tower Hamlets Council is expected to lodge a formal objection with Locog about the deal after a vote next week.”

– Hughes and Patel signed on to the BMA/Amnesty/Friends of Labour letter, not Keith Vaz’ Early Day Motion. Jeory included the text of the letter and the lists of MPs 
and Indian Olympians who have signed it.

– Jeory provided the text of the Tower Hamlets Council’s resolution to “lodge a formal objection with Locog” about the Dow sponsorship, and to join and assist the 
campaign calling for LOCOG to “reverse its decision” about the sponsorship. The council plans to write to Lord Coe, Secretary of State for Culture, Jeremy Hunt MP and 
LOCOG CEO Paul Deighton.

– Jeory promised “There will be further political developments by the end of this week, watch this space.”

– Jeory also included the text of Tessa Jowell’s press release reported below. 

What fun. Here are a couple of other entries.

So I thought I’d be kind and pass more work Stratfor’s way.

Almost a year on from the Opening Ceremony, I wondered what had become of the wrap. A rejected bid by another company in the original tender process had proposed sending thousands of little pieces to schools throughout Britain as a memento of the Games–a great idea.

But at the end of the Games, Dow announced here it would be working with UK aid charity Article 25 to send panels to Rio and Uganda for development projects. It added in that same press release that Manchester company Axion Recycling would “implement additional projects for reuse or recycling of the wrap within the UK”.

Maybe it was just me, but my inference was that all this would be benevolent…

Not so.

The corporate monster that is Dow couldn’t resist seeing its product converted for commercial purposes. After weeks of refusing to answer my questions and banning Article 25 and Axion from talking to the press, Dow finally admitted this week that only half (at most) of the wrap has been earmarked for Uganda and Rio.

The rest has been converted by Axion into flooring, packaging and building products…..Inspire a Generation? Yeah, right.

Dow remains, remember, a Top Tier sponsorship partner of the International Olympic Committee, so they’ll also be spinning their rubbish in Rio.

Here’s the piece I wrote for the Sunday Express today:

MORE than half the controversial fabric wrap which adorned Britain’s Olympic stadium last year has been sold off as flooring and packaging products for the private sector, an investigation has found.
 
Dow Chemical, the US giant brought in by Lord Coe to sponsor London’s 2012 Games, has admitted most of the wrap it funded last summer has since been chopped up into smaller pieces and “recycled” for commercial use by a Manchester-based business partner.
 
The remaining panels, made from a form of plastic, have been given to UK aid charity Article 25 and converted into shelters for vulnerable children in Uganda and Rio de Janeiro.
 
Dow refused to say why not all panels had been donated to charities but insisted its decisions were consistent with Lord Coe’s “sustainability” demands.
 
However, campaigners in Bhopal, India, where there were large protests last year over Dow’s involvement with the Games, said the findings were a “slap on the face” to those who believed the legacy commitments would be entirely benevolent.
 
The decision by Lord Coe’s Locog organising team in 2011 to make Dow a sponsor of the Games brought the Indian Olympic team to the brink of boycott last year.
 
Their fury stemmed from the Bhopal gas disaster in 1984 when thousands were killed and many more were maimed after a toxic cloud of chemicals leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide plant near the city centre.
 
Although Union Carbide agreed a “final” compensation package of $470million with the Indian government in 1989, campaigners say that underestimated the long-term scale of the disaster.
 
Dow never owned nor operated the plant but because it bought Union Carbide in 2001, campaigners and the Indian government argue it is now responsible for further legal claims and for remediating the site, which continues to pollute the city’s groundwater.
 
Dow strongly denies any liability.
 
However, the company’s controversial background caused many to wonder why they were allowed to sponsor the 2012 stadium.
 
Locog always insisted it ran a fair and rigorous tender process for the wrap but some MPs believed it had been influenced by the International Olympic Committee’s decision to sign a lucrative partnership agreement with Dow earlier in 2011.
 
Within months of the sponsorship award, the Sunday Express discovered another bid by a British consortium had been rejected on the grounds its proposed material was inappropriate.
 
That bid had included a legacy proposal to distribute small pieces of the £1.5million wrap to thousands of British schools as a memento of the Games and to inspire children into sport.
 
However, organisers said Dow’s offer was by far the best choice and at the end of the Games last August, the company announced its own legacy plans for the wrap.
 
It said Article 25 would work on two charity initiatives, while Axion would “implement additional projects for reuse or recycling of the wrap within the UK”.
 
The Sunday Express asked both organisations for an update on the projects last month, but they said Dow had barred them from talking to the media.
 
With the anniversary of the Opening Ceremony only days away, Dow decided to issue a press release on its projects last week.
 
It said some panels are now being used at Rio’s Bola Pra Frente Institute, a social project for teenagers founded by ex-Brazilian football star Jorginho in 2000.
 
The panels act as shades at the institute’s headquarters and help increase the space available for outdoor activities.
 
The project was chosen to create a link between London and Rio, which will be the next Olympic host city in 2016.
 
Other panels will be sent to Uganda later this year.
 
The press release continued: “The remaining panels have been allocated for recycling and reuse by British company Axion Recycling.
 
“The recycled material will be used as material for packaging, flooring and building applications.
 
“These programmes successful fulfil Dow’s commitment to Locog on the post-Games usage of the innovative stadium wrap.
 
“[They] emphasise the company’s commitment to sustainable development.”
 
When asked how much of the wrap had been earmarked for charitable use, Dow declined to give an exact figure, but a spokeswoman said: “Axion has already recycled approximately 50 per cent and the resulting material was converted by their customers into a range of applications.
 
“After the announced re-purposing projects will have been completed the remaining balance will go to Axion for recycling.”
 
Dow declined to say whether it had had a commercial relationship with Axion before the Games, but denied it had sold the wrap to them.
 
“Axion is a service provider to Dow, so we would be paying them,” the spokeswoman said.
 
Sathyu Sarangi, a leading figure in campaign for justice in Bhopal, said the wrap would have made a useful shelter in his city, but no offer had been made.
 
He said: “Giving it to Axion Recycling is a slap on the face of those who believed the wrap was a symbol of benevolent sustainability.
 
“It is a rude awakening. The kids in Brazil and Uganda are getting the crumbs off the table.”

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