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article imageOp-Ed: Bhopal Special Olympics — An insight into why the event was held

By Anne Sewell     Jul 27, 2012 in World
Bhopal - On July 26, Bhopal held the Bhopal Special Olympics, in protest against Dow Chemical's sponsorship of the London Olympics 2012. Meet a few of the participants and learn more about the event.
Digital Journal reported on the Bhopal Special Olympics held on July 26, where 80 children, disabled due to the Bhopal disaster, participated in their own, very special, sporting event.
Background:
The Bhopal disaster was one of the world's worst industrial catastrophes, which killed around 25,000 residents of Bhopal. The people died in the aftermath of a massive gas leak in a pesticide factory owned by Union Carbide, a U.S. company purchased by Dow Chemical in 2001.
According to activists, around 500,000 people are still suffering from illnesses developed after the tragedy, and cancer, blindness and birth defects have affected many children born since the catastrophe occurred.
Five organizations of the survivors of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal jointly organized the Bhopal Special Olympics, held on July 26, a day ahead of the opening of the London Olympics.
Bhopal Special Olympics  in protest against Dow Chemical s sponsorship of the London Olympics 2012 -...
Bhopal Special Olympics, in protest against Dow Chemical's sponsorship of the London Olympics 2012 - July 26, 2012
Bhopal Special Olympics
The Games were held in opposition of the sponsorship of the Olympic Games by the current owner of Union Carbide, Dow Chemical. Organizers state that Dow Chemical continues to evade civil, criminal and environmental liabilities of Bhopal, inherited from Union Carbide.
Children born with disabilities due to poisoning by Union Carbide took part in the Bhopal Special Olympics to counter Dow Chemical’s attempts to “greenwash” its crimes through the sponsorship of the Olympic Games.
Bhopal Special Olympics in protest against Dow Chemical s sponsorship of London Olympics - July 26  ...
Bhopal Special Olympics in protest against Dow Chemical's sponsorship of London Olympics - July 26, 2012
Bhopal Special Olympics
Organizers said that contrary to the opening of the London Olympics, which are expected to highlight all that a British citizen could be proud of, The Bhopal Olympics opened with song and dances, focusing on matters that British people should be ashamed of.
Bhopal Special Olympics in protest against Dow Chemical s sponsorship of London Olympics - July 26  ...
Bhopal Special Olympics in protest against Dow Chemical's sponsorship of London Olympics - July 26, 2012
Bhopal Special Olympics
With the theme “From East India Company to The Dow Chemical Company”, the opening ceremony drew attention to the many famines caused by British rule over India, the mass hanging in the wake of the first battle for Indian independence in 1857, the massacre at Jalianwala Baug in 1919 and the support extended by the British Prime Minister to the Dow Chemical Company.
The organizations have been trying for a year to get Dow Chemical dropped as a sponsor of the London Olympics. They say that the Bhopal Special Olympics underlines the irony of a corporation that had disabled thousands of children in Bhopal, Vietnam, Nicaragua, New Zealand, USA and other countries, sponsoring the Olympic Games.
Bhopal Special Olympics
Bhopal Special Olympics
Bhopal Special Olympics
Some of the participants in the Bhopal Special Olympics:
And now we meet just a few of the people involved in the Bhopal Special Olympics.
On July 25, Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) volunteers met with several of the children and their parents to discuss the games. One of the children, Zehra Javed, 5, has cerebral palsy. Zehra was born with her condition because her father was exposed to the gas that came from the Union Carbide factory on the night of December 3, 1984.
Because her legs are not strong enough to support her unassisted, Zehra participated in the Crabwalking event. In the event, she had to sit on the ground, with her legs held up in the air in front of her. She then used her arms and bottom as three contact points with the ground to move forward. Zehra can be seen in the video below:
Her mother, Nusrahi, explained that Zehra started school this summer. As her speech is not very clear, others sometimes have trouble understanding her, and she cannot walk unassisted, and has to be carried everywhere. Nusrahi explained that one of the local organizations has been giving Zehra physiotherapy and speech therapy for 2 years. Resulting from this, her speech has improved, and while she could not previously walk at all, she can now walk with support.
Nusrahi was asked how she felt about the London Olympics, to which she replied, "Because of Dow my child is suffering. Dow should not be sponsoring the games."
When asked what she thought about the Bhopal Special Olympics, Nusrahi replied, "Some of the organizations that work with the survivors here organize annual sporting events. These events help them move on in their lives."
Suraj Pratap Singh, 16, has cerebral palsy with M.R., and all his limbs are too weak for him to propel himself in any way. For this reason, he participated in the Bhopal Special Olympics in two ways. He carried the "Olympics jhadoo* (broom)" in the opening ceremony, and also took part in the Assisted Wheelchair Race.
Bhopal Special Olympics - Suraj Pratap Singh
Bhopal Special Olympics - Suraj Pratap Singh
Bhopal Special Olympics
Suraj is unable to speak, but his mother, Kesarbai, was asked why he was participating in the Bhopal Special Olympics. Kersarbai said, "I feel my child should play games like other kids, but he can’t participate on his own. With help he is able to, and it makes him very happy."
When asked if Suraj can communicate at all, Kersarbai said, "He has a very unique way of communicating. If he is hungry and hasn’t eaten at the proper time, he cries. If someone is holding a glass and he is thirsty, he makes a sound, and I understand what he wants."
On the subject of Dow sponsoring the London Olympics, Kersarbai said, "It is quite wrong that such companies are sponsoring the Olympics. Because of them Suraj is like this, his father has breathing difficulties, others have problems too. Instead of sponsoring the Olympics, they should look after the people they have affected in these different ways."
"Many doctors have said that because of the gas tragedy Suraj is like this. We want to send a message to the world that this is what Dow has done: committed an accident and didn’t take responsibility. We want Dow to take responsibility for such children, and we think the whole world should pressure them to do so."
“I am skeptical about the government hospitals set up for treatment of gas affected people. People have gone to these hospitals and not come back, lots of them have not been diagnosed properly, and when they are in the hospital they cannot have many visitors. Dow could do something to make treatment for gas affected people better.”
Now we meet Kartik Sen, 16 and Sachin, 19. Kartik has cerebral palsy, and participated in the 25M Assisted Walk event in the Bhopal Special Olympics.
Bhopal Special Olympics - Kartik (right) wearing red t-shirt - Sachin (center) wearing pink shirt.
Bhopal Special Olympics - Kartik (right) wearing red t-shirt - Sachin (center) wearing pink shirt.
Bhopal Special Olympics
Sachin has deformities to the lower limbs (Kyphosis with paraparesis), and participated in the tricycle race. Both these children are able to speak, but have difficulties communicating with people.
A representative from the NGO clinics explained that, “It takes at least a week to break the ice with one of these children and get them to talk, it’s not easy,” he said.
“When you first came to me, you may have seen the girl I had sitting in my lap. In the beginning she wouldn’t speak to anyone. Now she is happy with me, so much so that when her parents come she stays with me only. So you can’t expect the children to talk to you freely now.”
However, when the interviewer spoke to the children, and asked whether the Bhopal Special Olympics are about winning or more about participating, Sachin became animated and said, “I have come here to win.”
Sachin then explained that In the past he was able to go to school on his own, using crutches. Now he cannot. He has permanent sores on his legs, and in the rainy season these get worse, opening, weeping and getting infected.
He gets tired while moving, and he has lots of involuntary movements in his legs that create problems. In particular, the leg movements mean he can’t sleep properly.
When asked about other things that are important in his life, Sachin said that he has he has lots of friends – “all the children taking part in the Special Olympics are my friends,” he said. He enjoys going to school, playing with other children, and visiting places when he can.
Bhopal Special Olympics in protest against Dow Chemical s sponsorship of London Olympics - July 26  ...
Bhopal Special Olympics in protest against Dow Chemical's sponsorship of London Olympics - July 26, 2012
Bhopal Special Olympics
Petition to help the Bhopal citizens:
A petition is available on Avaaz for concerned parties who wish to help the citizens of Bhopal.
Ongoing cases against The Dow Chemical Company, USA in India:
Bhopal Special Olympics in protest against Dow Chemical s sponsorship of London Olympics - July 26  ...
Bhopal Special Olympics in protest against Dow Chemical's sponsorship of London Olympics - July 26, 2012
Bhopal Special Olympics
1. In High Court of Madhya Pradesh regarding summons from Bhopal District Court to make Union Carbide appear in the ongoing criminal case.
2. In High Court of Madhya Pradesh regarding clean up of contamination and payment of compensation for environmental and health damages.
3. In Supreme Court of India regarding payment of additional compensation of 1.2 billion dollars for deaths and injuries caused by the gas disaster.
4. In District Court of Patiala case against Dow Agro Sciences India Pvt. Ltd. regarding bribing of Indian officials for expediting registration of Dursban, Nuril and Pride pesticides.
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Jhadoo (broom) handed to a Dow representative
Jhadoo (broom) handed to a Dow representative
Bhopal Special Olympics
* The Olympic Jhadoo (Broom)
The main reason the jhadoo has been taken as a symbol of the campaign is that the jhadoo is what a woman picks up when she is really angry and wants to give someone a thrashing. In India to be hit with a broom is a supreme insult, worse even than to have chappals (slippers) thrown at one. This meaning of the jhadoo is recognized across India, across linguistic barriers.
Dow’s PR have issued instructions that Dow executives around the world must accept a jhadoo if one is offered to them.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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