The dream of a conscientious Olympic movement
I had a peculiar dream last night. I dreamed of Mary Kom, the Indian boxing champion and a gold medal favorite for the London Olympics. In my dream, she is playing the final round of the final match which she is all set to win. The crowds are with her and I am part of the crowd cheering her on. As it becomes apparent that she might win the match, she becomes extremely emotional, her face a crowded canvas of pain and triumph, fear and longing. This one win would the culmination of a hard long battle, not just against her opponents but against the odds stacked against her by Indian bureaucracy, the International Olympic Committee hurdles and motherhood. Tears blur her vision, merging the crowds and her opponent into one … but before the match could reach its conclusion, I woke up with a start.
Right now I am torn between wanting to follow India’s progress in the Olympics and supporting the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy in their call for a boycott of the London Olympics. I really want to support Mary Kom, Sania Nehwal and many of our beloved champions. But as a conscientious citizen I cannot be party to an event which is sponsored by Dow Chemicals, a rogue international corporation that owns Union Carbide which was responsible for the world’s worst industrial disaster. The huge tragedy of the Bhopal Gas Leak resulted in thousands of deaths and left millions of people adversely affected.
Protests against Dow Chemicals in Bhopal. Photo by Obi from ROMA, LONDON, on Wikimedia Commons(CC-BY-2.0)
They say that the Olympics was founded in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. However, the current event exhibits none of these characteristics. What message is it relaying by accepting sponsorship from Dow Chemicals? What does it signify to host a games tournament with the sponsorship of Coca Cola and fast food companies - global corporations that promote consumption of unhealthy food in a sedentary lifestyle. I do not want to be a witness to an obscene extravaganza that costs billions of dollars that could have been better spent in building sports infrastructures around the world. It’s a cruel joke to see billions spent like this when modernity is busy devoring our open spaces and sports grounds. (Beijing spent $40 billion, London spent nearly $20 billion … imagine that kind of money spent on basic accessible community-based sports facilities to revive our traditional culture of sports.)
As a child I saw our lovely playground usurped by real estate companies. Now the young ones in my home town have only narrow parking bays for sports where they have to mind precious car headlights and window panes.
I do wish every success to the Indian athletes. But surely, the Olympic Games – a very costly global property- c0uld be a conscientious and more impactful movement rather than just a wasteful ‘event’.