The writer of the Olympic opening ceremony has criticised David Cameron for defending Dow Chemical, one of the sponsors of the games, and called on the government to help make the Olympics a space for resolving conflict.
Frank Cottrell Boyce, who worked with director Danny Boyle in creating last Friday’s spectacle, said the project was wrought with moral difficulty. He also criticised another corporate sponsor – Visa – for their Olympic park ”proud to only accept visa” ads - and G4S, the outsourcing company which failed to supply enough security guards for the games.
Boyce said he considered resigning from his opening ceremony role because he found it “very troubling” that Dow was sponsor of the £7m fabric material wrap around the Olympic Stadium. The chemicals company has been criticised by protesters who say it has not properly compensated the people of Bhopal, India, for a deadly gas leak from a plant owned by Union Carbide, later bought by Dow. (Dow denies it is responsible).
“Dow must have calculated on there being a protest and therefore our prime minister would have to defend Dow on what is an open sore legally,” he said. David Cameron has said he has no problem with having Dow as a sponsor.
He continued: “It is hard to walk around the Olympic site when you know about Dow. It is a horrible irony that it was built on a recovered industrial site when you know there’s another one on the other side of the world which is still toxic after 30 years”.
Instead of resigning, Mr Cottrell-Boyce says he opted to instead put forward a positive proposal for an “enduring moral legacy” for London 2012. He says the “Olympic truce” should be used to allow people in conflict – like Dow and the Bhopal victims – to talk freely and solve problems without lawyers and without publicity. The “save the surprise” campaign, in which they managed to keep the contents of the opening ceremony under wraps, shows it is possible to have secrets, he says.
However, the writer insists the show itself was not about making a political point, although the team’s working class backgrounds did influence the ceremony. “We’re not that excited by ruffs and doublets but are excited by young ladies throwing themselves under horses,” he said, referring to the suffragette Emily Davison.
He was also bemused by the flurry of political interpretations which followed the ceremony – the most common being criticism of the emphasis placed on the National Health Service. Dancing nurses may have been on stage with Dementors from the Harry Potter books but the pageant was not a deliberate criticism of the government’s NHS reforms, he said. It could have come from our subconscious, he joked, saying: “After all, you’d have to be Voldemort to attack the NHS.”