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Open Letter to Meredith Alexander former Commissioner on the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012

30th January 2012

Dear Ms Alexander

I wholeheartedly congratulate you on your decision to resign from the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012. As far as I am aware you are only the second person involved with London 2012 who has had the integrity, courage and conviction to take such a morally justifiable action.

I am a writer, photographer and film maker and have been researching the London Olympics for some years now.  Some of my work, and that of my colleagues, can be found on the Games Monitor Website.

I understand your reason for resigning is London 2012‘s decision to accept money from Dow Chemical, owners of Union Carbide, the company responsible for the worst industrial accident in human history, costing the lives and continued suffering of thousands.

I would like to point out that the controversy over Dow’s activities does not stop there. They were manufactures of Napalm and Agent Orange, a chemical used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. The death toll and the number of people who continue to suffer from Agent Orange runs into the hundreds of thousands.

Dow is also a defense manufacturer for the U.S. military. Under this remit they operated the notorious Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in the USA and were fined $750m in 2008 in a plutonium contamination class action by nearby landowners. But as expert legal escapologists they appealed this judgement and subsequently managed to dodge an expensive payout.

In my view sustainability issues connected with London 2012 are more profound than the acceptance of money from sponsors with questionable histories and moral values. One of the strap lines created to persuade us that 17 days of sport are really worth £10 billion is is the phrase “The Greenest Olympics Ever”. The use of the term is educational as the construction of a new Olympic venue every two years, for each summer and winter Games, is so far from Green that any attempt to portray it as such is ridiculous, and an acceptance of this fiction is therefore naive.

As part of our Olympic bid London was instructed to spend billions on improvements to public transport, which Olympic officials will not use, instead London have the sponsor BMW who are shipping 4,000 fossil fuel powered cars to London to chauffeur Olympic VIPs on dedicated traffic lanes. But this should be of no concern as BMW are “the world’s most sustainable automotive manufacturer”. The Commission also “commends the ground breaking work led by LOCOG to define the carbon footprint.” The Commission’s website is full of this kind of hyperbole, and is, in my view, consequently difficult to take seriously.

But London’s problems with the construction of an Olympic venue are more serious than usual because the land it has been built on was, for more than a century, home to all sorts of filthy industries. Consequently it is heavily contaminated by paint factories, oil refineries and plants for arsenic, explosives and pesticide manufacture along with many other polluting activities.

In a bizarre coincidence one of the companies evicted from within what is now the Olympic Zone was Banner Chemicals. Their business was the import and wholesale of chemicals. One of their suppliers was Dow Chemical and their former site was heavily contaminated by chemicals almost certainly manufactured by the same Dow Chemical. However, astonishingly for such a polluted site, this is in fact a side issue as the venue’s pollution problems aren't limited to chemicals - they also include radioactive contamination.

You may remember the ODA’s first Chairman was Jack Lemley, who resigned citing problems of contamination and the government’s failure to listen as the reasons he was not prepared to stay in his post. Since Mr Lemley’s resignation my colleagues and I have attempted to access environmental information relating to London’s Olympic project.

There are three routes by which one may attempt to access such information.

1) Statements from employees of the Olympic project.

2) From publicly accessible documents.

3) Through requests for information under the Environmental Information Regulations.

All these routes to information have proved problematic.

Statements issued by employees of the Olympic Delivery Authority have often been misleading and sometimes less than truthful, including statements made by ODA directors in answering questions from members of the GLA.

Information which exists in the public domain is buried in thousands of poorly filed documents, and is consequently extremely difficult, or impossible, to access. Documents are not keyword searchable.

At Games Monitor we have also found gaining access to information through Environmental Information Regulations problematic.  In my view the ODA has been obstructive, and has, on at least one occasion, altered documents.  There is an on-going case with the Information Commissioner concerning the provision of information.

In my view Games Monitor is the only body carrying out effective independent monitoring of the London Olympics. I suspect that the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 will have been fed the same, or similar, misinformation as the GLA, and consequently is unaware of the seriousness of issues connected with the contamination of the 2012 site.

In a recent article posted on the Games Monitor website I claim that Dow Chemical are in truth perfect sponsors for London 2012 because they both share similar values in relation to issues of contamination, and in their promulgation of misinformation. I do not make this statement lightly or in any way facetiously. The very fact that London 2012 decided to accept money from Dow lends weight to this argument. For further information on this please see the link to the Games Monitor website below.

Andrew Boff, Conservative member of the GLA, called upon the previous boss of the ODA, David Higgins, to launch an independent inquiry into issues of contamination of the site. His request was refused on the grounds that independent oversight of this was already in place. This is not true (since that time Mr Higgins has received a knighthood, resigned from the ODA, and taken up a post as head of Rail Track).

I would urge you to lobby your ex-colleagues at the Commission to call for an independent inquiry into the matter of the contamination of the site, and the possible health implications for workers and residents.

Post Olympics work will again begin on the site. Due to the issue of contamination any future excavation works on the site pose a risk to human health and should not be permitted until an independent inquiry has been carried out.

The “Greenest Olympics Ever” slogan is part of a more widely spread veneer of fraudulent Green credentials. The Commission you previously sat on bears the title “Commission for a Sustainable London 2012”. This may lead the ordinary civilian to believe that the sustainability of London 2012 is being monitored carefully. I am not familiar with the work of the Commission, as I didn’t find much sign of its activity in the areas we were researching. I would suggest that if the Commission is unaware of some basic facts, which I have set out below, or if the commission is aware of them, but has failed to act on them, then the Commission must surely have failed in its remit.

1) The land Olympic venue is built on is blighted by widespread radioactive contamination.

2) At least half a million tonnes of highly contaminated material was trucked around the country to landfill sites. It should have been, but was not, tested for radioactive contamination.

3) More than 7,000 tonnes of radioactive contamination was buried 250 metres form the main stadium.

4) A system of cheating the Radioactive Substances Act was carried out by contractors Atkins with the knowledge of the ODA. More than 100 tonnes of soil which had previously been separated out and determined to be in the Low Level Radioactive Waste category was placed in a hole in the ground, with thousands of tonnes of other material which was believed to be less radioactive. A calculation was then carried out to average down the whole bulk of this contaminated material. This was a theoretical (but not actual) dilution of the radioactive material. Any dilution, theoretical or actual, is completely contrary to guidelines, and has never been carried out in the country before.

May I again congratulate you for your decision to resign from the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012.

Regards, Mike Wells

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