Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Shadow of Bhopal...

Tower Bridge

The Olympics are closing in. The opportunity to live in a city hosting it is a once in a life time experience. I have mixed feelings about the Olympics.
On one hand I love London, the city that welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home.
I am amazed by the diverse , multicultural experience that London has to offer.
And then there is Bhopal and Dow Chemicals association with the Olympics, which deeply saddens me.

And so I thought I would blog about the whole experience of being here in London and watching the Olympics unfurl., both about what's good and whats bad and all that's in between.

Over the weekend we walked around London Bridge and standing on the bridge itself,  under overcast skies and the rain threatening to pour  down, a trickle of sunshine momentarily brightened up the scene. It was as if they were spot lights on tower bridge itself and the huge Olympic rings that had been placed there to make one month to the Olympic games. In the background HMS Belfast stood out in gorgeous steely greys against the beautiful Thames.

The massive rings measuring - 82 feet (25 m) wide and 38 feet (11.5 m) tall look spectacular against the London skyline. The gold rimmed tips of Tower Bridge seem to be reaching up to touch the sky.
Around me people walk, some with cameras in hand , some others with children, everyone taking in the beautiful sight of the Thames and the hustle and bustle of London around it.


And then my thoughts return to Bhopal. I feel a little guilty for enjoying it all .
What does puzzle me sometimes is that I hardly find mention about the worst industrial disaster in human memory mentioned in the press or as part of conversation itself. If we pride ourselves on human rights shouldn't a stronger protest be marked somehow?
A colleague very casually told me that , Dow didn't own the company at that point in time and so shouldn't be held accountable. I find this apathy shocking. I have family/ friends who are activists and while they hold strong views with regard to certain things, the death of 15000 people in a beautiful city does not feature highly in their areas of concern.Most people know about Chernobyl but have never heard about Bhopal!

Have we become so blind, that we can condone an action that cost the lives of 15000 living, breathing souls. Were they worth anything at all?

Why do I write this then? Because I am torn.
On one hand I love this city and I have always held London as a model of tolerance, and so I feel let down  by Dows association with the games.

 But I  do believe people can do what governments around the world can't and I really do hope that this city tolerant as it is , somewhere finds the voice to stand up for what happened to the thousands who died at Bhopal.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Olympic Glory..

The Olympics are close at hand and London has more reminders than one.
Some of them you read in the papers and plan to see, some are completely unexpected
We had planned to visit the British museum earlier this week. For those who have never visited London , the British museum is a carefully preserved record of human history.  Every culture and their journey through the ages has been beautifully laid out for us to see. And the best part is all of this is FREE! No admission charges, which is something incredible.

When we walked in I did not expect to see the Olympic medals of London 2012 on display.
The last time the games were held in London was in the year 1948, not long after the war and probably a cause for celebration among the people who has seen so much   in the preceding years.
The medals used in the games of 1948 were on display as well. And between then and now they provide a valuable insights into how the games have changed. For one the medals certainly are bigger.

Outside the British Museum..
Below the medals were descriptions of how they were made and what their designs sought to represent. I was blown away by the artistic vision. I've not seen an Olympic medal up close before and I don't know a great deal about other designs elsewhere.
But the artists who finally had their work imprinted on metal to crown the champions of the London 2012 Olympics came through a careful process of selection by the LOGOPG (The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Para Olympic games)

The designs were put to vote before a jury of experts. The winning jewelers were David Walkins and Liu Cheng.

The medals on display..

The Rio Tinto mines are the suppliers of metal used in the games.

The medals for London 2012 Olympic games - the front

The maker of the design had this to say about the symbolism in his work

"It's key symbols juxtapose, front and back, the goddess Nike for the spirit and tradition of the games, the River Thames for the city of London"

The medals for London 2012 Olympic medal - The Front

The medals for London 2012 Olympic Games - The back

I found the textures on the para Olympic games beautiful. If I was to fault the exhibition of one thing it was that it lacked an explanation of the symbolism in the design of the medal .
In the absence of it though I game my mind free reign to create its own. Right on top is writing in what I think is Braille.
 I wanted to reach out and touch the medal to get a feel of the beautiful texturing inlaid in metail.
It flowed from end to end all across the circle and reminded me in some strange way of molten lava.

The medals for London Para Olympic games 2012 - The front

The medals for the London  Para Olympic games 2012
Besides this there was a lot about the history of the games and how the modern Olympics came to be.
As early as 1850,  a  surgeon William Penny-Brookes, introduced physical education into British schools and started the tradition of the Olympian games in the town of  Shropshire.
Inspired by the idea the Frenchman  Pierre de Coubertin started the effort to hold the event on a global scale and that was the beginning of the Olympics as we know it, the first of which was held in 1896.

The para Olympics took off from a similar British event too, one that was held in 1948 at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire, for people injured in the Second World War.

The words of Shakespeare on display on the walls remind of the glory that awaits the winners of the games

‘And, if we thrive,
promise them such rewards
As victors wear at the
Olympian games’
William Shakespeare
Henry VI, Part 3 – Act II Scene iii

The history of the games..
The medals used in the games of 1948

The medals of the 1948 games were smaller in size but they matched the ones of 2012 in the grandeur of their designs. The symbolism seems to be heavily greek possible because of their long standing tradition in having the games even before the rest of the world decided to have it in this scale.

This exhibition was packed with people, no surprises by the amount of interest surrounding the coveted objects every champion at the games will want to take home with them

More details on the exhibition can be found at the website of the British museum


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