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London 2012 Olympic’s shameful corporate sponsors

by Steve Rushton
American League Against War and Fascism poster: Poster calling for boycott of Hitler's 1936 GamesAmerican League Against War and Fascism poster: Poster calling for boycott of Hitler's 1936 GamesSponsors of the 2012 London Olympics profit from peoples’ deaths and destroying the planet, whilst creating a vastly unequal economic system; this smears the Olympic ethos of people coming together to celebrate sporting excellence. Desecrating the games integrity will be advertisements from companies that profit directly from and cause peoples’ death, not least BP, Dow and Rio Tinto. Nevertheless, David Cameron has come out in support of DOW’s sponsorship.[i] More broadly, it has been argued that elites within the system are attempting to suppress peoples’ rights to express their discontent against injustices in Britain and abroad.

The athletes, that have trained so hard, will also be in front of advertisements and commercials for further corporate powers that are responsible for many varied injustices. An overview, although not exclusive, discussion will follow within this article after a consideration of the aforementioned three corporations. It seems that the Olympics are a golden opportunity for corporations that are guilty of violations to cleanse their image at a far cheaper cost than addressing their impacts; furthermore, it supports the idea that if corporate actions were analysed by a clinical pychiatrist, they would be deemed sociopathic.[ii]

Allegations against BP include that they fund human rights abuses and death squads in Columbia; one community leader described their impact as creating poverty, militarization and environmental disaster.[iii] The New Internationalist last year reported that since oil exploitation began 20 years ago in Casanare, over 3 percent of the population has been killed or displaced.[iv] Similarly, last year a BP led consortium was found guilty by the British Government of breaching human rights concerning the security on a pipeline that stretches over Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.[v]

DOW also have a long history of profiting from death, they produced Napalm for the Vietnam War and were involved in the manufacture of Agent Orange; both these weapons are still having adverse effects on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. More recently they acquired the chemical plant Union Carbide; however they rejected their responsibilities to take on the company’s legacy for the Bhopal Disaster. Today over 100,000 people continue to suffer from the chemical leak that killed tens of thousands.[vi]

The mining company Rio Tinto has a terrible legacy of death and ecological destruction that it brings to the games. The Norwegian Government in 2008 sold its shares in the company and explained that it was due to its participation in the Grasberg Mine in Papua New Guinea, the largest gold and third largest copper mine in the world.[vii] Tribal leaders, Human Rights campaigners and ecologists have accused the company of promoting the genocide of the local indigenous peoples, mainly the Amungme and Kamoro, whilst destroying thousands of acres of their rainforest lands, polluting vast swathes of the forest and river systems, sponsoring military repression, human rights abuses including torture and desecrating their sacred spiritual relationship to the land. One Amungme community leader asserted that, ‘If we were seen as human… they would not take the most valued property of the Amungme, just as we have never taken the property of others… I sometimes wonder; whose actions are more primitive?’[viii]

The wider injustices represented at the 2012 Olympics include other corporations that have stolen peoples’ lands; whether this is the green land in East London or the lands stolen from others further away. Arcelor Mittal faced protests about their plans to build a steel plant in India, which will have an vast ecological impact and destroy the lives, lands and livelihoods of the rural population.[ix] McDonalds have a legacy for destroying Rainforest, especially in South and Central America; despite their claims that they have stopped this practice, the Ecologist reported that it is continuing.[x] With similarities to the issue of stealing peoples’ lands, Thomas Cook sells holidays to the Tsavo National Park, Kenya, where the Maasai have been forcibly evicted from their ancestral land justified to make way for tourist safaris.[xi]

There are further relationships with profits from death; Lloyds TSB is accused of providing banking services for the manufacturers of cluster bombs, which are outlawed by international law.[xii] Likewise, EDF and General Electric are involved in the proliferation and manufacturing of nuclear weapons.[xiii] There are further examples of corporations that are supporting the games that have been blamed for supporting human rights abuses. G4S and BT have been criticised for their work to enable the Palestinian occupation and encourage new Israeli settlements.[xiv] BMW worked with Burma, whilst it was still a military dictatorship.[xv] Criticisms levelled against Coca-Cola include human rights abuses, in China, Colombia and Guatemala.[xvi] Also Cisco has been blamed for assisting the Chinese State to repress peoples’ rights.[xvii] Placing profits above human lives is also a charge levied at Glaxosmithkline, in making massive profits whilst continuing to price people in economically poorer countries out of the benefits of accessible medicine.[xviii]

Many people across the world face inhumane working conditions including child labour, corporations that represent these injustices are also trying to cleanse their reputations at the games. Adidas has been accused of using child labour and sweatshops.[xix] BMW were found guilty in a Mexican court for paying women unequally to men.[xx] Acer have faced protests in South Korea as toxins in their plants have been claimed to lead to cancer in its workers.[xxi] In Britain, Holiday Inn has drawn condemnation for not paying a “living wage.”[xxii]

Visa and Lloyds, it can be argued, have played their part in causing the ethos of lending and irresponsible financial activity that lead to the banking crisis. Lloyds TSB were blamed for investing in toxic loans, which meant the Government had to bail them, amongst other banks out and created the financial crisis: the taxpayer is now underwriting these toxic loans.[xxiii] There have also been many redundancies at Lloyds TSB, impacting further on the economic situation.[xxiv] In 2009, Neelie Kroes, EU competition commissioner, said “We should wind down banks that can’t be saved…If we don’t face up to this issue then we risk prolonging this crisis with zombie banks that are incapable of performing a useful role in our economies.”[xxv] In the same year, Lloyds was also accused of tax evasion, using off shore tax havens which seriously damage the British Economy.[xxvi] Visa have also drawn political criticism, for removing banking services from Wikilinks, whilst still banking for a group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.[xxvii]

A major issue with the current economic crisis is tax avoidance. This issue also has a representative in Deloitte, who are backing the games whist their CEO has been in controversy for dodging paying tax.[xxviii] The power of corporations to institute cartels allows increased prices at the majorities expense; the European Union censured UPS for this practice.[xxix] The government’s reaction to the crisis to increase privatization has been seen by many as a way of socializing the debt and pushing through their pro-elite agenda. Sponsors of the games who have been involved within this include G4S, moving further into the British judicial and police service; they will soon include running their own private police station in Lincolnshire.[xxx] Atos too have been part of the government’s privitisation plans, and have faced protests for their part in the removal of disabled peoples’ services.[xxxi]

This games organisers have set out their hopes to create the greenest one ever; however its sponsor’s actions and its local impact on East London appears to contradict this message.[xxxii] For instance, EDF has come under fire for ignoring the democratic process in trying to build the twin reactor Hinkley Point C power station in West Somerset.[xxxiii] British Airways and Heathrow face opposition to their plans to build a further runway, whereas, also in the London area, Thames Water has been accused of spying on people who oppose plans to build a super-sewer.[xxxiv] Proctor and Gamble use PVC, which is a material that has far better alternatives that do not cause such extensive damage to the environment.[xxxv] In America, Kraft the new owner of Cadbury, has angered ecologists for using GM crops, whilst the company Aggreko has been removed from a list of FTSE ethical companies as its practices have become more ecologically destructive.[xxxvi]

The Olympics sponsors seem to broadly represent a great deal that is wrong in the world as they prioritise corporate profits over all else. The government and judicial support for the corporate interests over the rights of protestors suggest they are solely interested in profits, regardless of human rights, the environment, economic fairness or the sanctity of human life. The International Olympic Committee talks of “building a better world through sport.”[xxxvii] Therefore, rather than the Olympics being desecrated by guilty corporations: it should promote messages for humanities benefit, promoting human rights, protecting eco-systems, reducing the consumption of resources, empowering the suppressed and raising the level of economic equality for all the people in the world. This truly would make it the most momentous of human spectacles.

i Jacquelin Magnay, London 2012 Olympics: David Cameron backs Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of Games, The Telegraph 5 April 2012, [a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/9138932/London-2012-Olympics-David-Cameron-backs-Dow-Chemicals-sponsorship-of-Games.html

ii Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. London, Constable and Robinson Ltd, 2004

iii Pratap Chatterjee, Guarding the Multinationals, 1st March 1998, Corpwatch

iv Brutish Petroleum, New Internationalist, Issue 434

v BP violating human rights rules, says UK Government: Ruling places BP in breach of its loan agreement, say campaigners, 9th March 2011

vi Steve Rushton, The unethical corporate subversion of Britain, Date, Occupy New Network

vii Norwegian Government – Rio Tinto’s mine ‘unethical,’ 11 September 2008, Survival International

viii Abigail Abrash, and Danny Kennedy, Repressive Mining in West Papua, Moving Mountains: Chapter 4 and The Impact of Freeport’s mining activities on the Amungme and Komoro peoples in West Papua

ix Moushumi Basu, Protesters in Eastern India Battle Against Mining Giant Arcelor Mittal, CorpWatch, March 2nd, 2010

x Boots, KFC, McDonalds ignore rainforest destruction survey, Ecologist, 10th February, 2010

xi http://www.thomascookstyle.com/hotel-destinations/kenya;jsessionid=EB36E7AE2BDFDFD1D8E10CFB2BB4E860

Ndaskoi, Navaya ole. 2006. “The Roots Causes of Maasai Predicament.” Fourth World Journal. 7:1. 28-61

xii Jerome Taylor, UK banks fund deadly cluster-bomb industry, The Independent, Tuesday, 16 August 2011

xiii Joseph Trento, Nuclear Accident in France, September 12th, 2011, DC Bureau http://www.dcbureau.org/201109126223/bulldog-blog/nuclear-accident-in-france.html

General Electric, September 20, 2007, Ethical Shopping http://www.ethicalshopping.com/companies/general-electric.html

xiv Adri Nieuwhof, Security firm G4S confirms involvement in Israel’s occupation

The Electronic Intifada, 6 January 2011 http://electronicintifada.net/content/security-firm-g4s-confirms-involvement-israels-occupation/9169

John Hilary et al. BT and Israel, The Guardian, Friday 12 November 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/nov/12/bt-israel

xv Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) Know more.org http://www.knowmore.org/wiki/index.php?title=Bayerische_Motoren_Werke_AG_%28BMW%29

xvi http://killercoke.org/

xvii Steven Musil, Lawsuit accuses Cisco of aiding Chinese repression: Suit alleges Cisco designed and supplied a surveillance system to track and sensor the activities of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. May 22, 2011, CNET, http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-20065219-93.html

xviii Dan Timms, GlaxoSmithKline: healthy progress? February 19th, 2009, http://www.oxfam.org.uk/applications/blogs/pressoffice/2009/02/19/glaxosmithkline-healthy-progress/

xix Madeleine Bunting, Sweatshops are still supplying high street brands, The Guardian, Thursday 28 April 2011 http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/apr/28/sweatshops-supplying-high-street-brands

xx Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) Know more.org http://www.knowmore.org/wiki/index.php?title=Bayerische_Motoren_Werke_AG_%28BMW%29

xxi Acer and Fujitsu Siemens Computers irresponsible, Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, 10-12-2005, http://somo.nl/news-en/acer-and-fujitsu-siemens-computers-irresponsible-1

xxii Hotel staff denied living wage by Olympic partner, Ciaran Brett, 22 February 2012, Sports Gazette http://www.sportsgazette.co.uk/section.php?aid=447&sid=6

xxiii Patrick Hennessy, Mark Kleinman and Melissa Kite, Lloyds toxic asset deal ‘sells taxpayer short’, The Telegraph, 07 Mar 2009, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/recession/4954066/Lloyds-toxic-asset-deal-sells-taxpayer-short.html

xxiv Timeline: Lloyds job losses: Massive job losses have followed since Lloyds Banking Group agreed to a merger with HBOS during the financial crisis, The Guardian, Thursday 30 June 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jun/30/lloyds-job-losses-timeline

xxv David Gow, Banks hobbled by bad debts could be wound down, says EC, The Guardian, Thursday 26 February 2009 http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2010/dec/07/wikileaks-us-embassy-cables-live-updates

xxvi John Sweeney, Tax inquiry into Lloyds off-shore, BBC Panorama, Monday, 21 September 2009 http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_8261000/8261135.stm

xxvii The arrest of Julian Assange: as it happened, Guardian Blog

Henry Porter, MasterCard and Visa cut off Wikileaks, but the KKK is still OK!, December 11, 2010, OpEdNews, http://www.opednews.com/articles/MasterCard-and-Visa-cut-of-by-Henry-Porter-101208-770.html

Matthew Weaver and Richard Adams, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Guardian News

Tuesday 7 December 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2010/dec/07/wikileaks-us-embassy-cables-live-updates

xxviii Tax Research, HMRC, ignoring tax avoidance, being uncharitable on error 28 July 2011, http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2011/07/28/hmrc-ignoring-tax-avoidance-being-uncharitable-on-error/

xxix Foo Yun Chee and Francesco Guarascio, EU to fine UPS, other logistics firms over cartel

Tue, Mar 27 2012, Reuters, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/03/27/business-us-eu-freightforwarders-idUKBRE82Q0WC20120327

xxx Suzan Uzel, Protesters occupy healthcare building, 12/05/2011, Cambridge News, http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Protesters-occupy-healthcare-building-12052011.htm

xxxi Demotix: News by you, Disabled protest supports the Atos Two – London, 3rd February 2012, http://www.demotix.com/news/1032839/disabled-protest-supports-atos-two-london

xxxii http://getset.london2012.com/en/the-games/about-london-2012/the-olympic-park/a-green-olympic-park

xxxiii John Vidal, Activists occupying new nuclear site accuse EDF of ‘ignoring democracy’ The energy company has started work on the £10bn Hinkley Point C power station without permission to build

Guardian.Friday 17 February 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/17/activists-occupy-nuclear-site-edf

xxxiv Hanna Gersmann, EDF fined €1.5m for spying on Greenpeace, The energy company’s former security chief was sentenced to three years in prison for employing a firm to hack into the energy watchdog’s computers, Guardian. Thursday 10 November 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/10/edf-spying-greenpeace

xxxv Ryan Dube, Study Finds 55 Hidden Toxic Chemicals in Consumer Product, Top Secret Writers, http://www.topsecretwriters.com/2012/03/55-hidden-chemicals-consumer-products/

xxxvi Sierra Club Targets Kraft, http://www.sierraclub.org/biotech/kraft.asp

Jessica Shankleman, EDF joins FTSE4Good index, but Olympic sponsor Aggreko axed , 14 Mar 2012, http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2159074/edf-joins-ftse4good-index-olympic-sponsor-aggreko-axed

xxxvii http://www.olympic.org/olympism-in-action

Original, April 9, 2012, on Occupy News Network by Steve Rushton


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