London 2012 is an artefact of modern corporate capitalism, so its sponsorship by Dow and BP seems entirely natural to its organisers writes Neil Faulkner

The toxic gas leak is estimated to have killed 15,000 and damaged the health of 100,000 more. The area around the plant is still contaminated. A recent water-sample from a hand-pump registered 1,000 times above the safe level of carbon tetrachloride.

So why is Dow Chemicals an Olympic sponsor? One could ask the same of many others. BP is – wait for it – ‘the Official Oil and Gas Partner’.

During the Games, BP will be doing what it does best: heating up the planet by pumping carbon into the atmosphere. It will do this by providing fuel for 5,000 official vehicles. That’s FIVE THOUSAND. All helping to make London 2012 ‘the greenest Games ever’.

BP, like Dow, has form as a global polluter. Bouncing back from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the company is heavily committed to Canadian tar-sands extraction and Arctic drilling. Sponsorship of the Olympics is perfect cover.

BP’s Olympic web-presence wears tasteful green, features athlete in green bikini, and proclaims the company ‘London 2012’s Sustainability Partner and the Official Carbon Offset Partner with Target Neutral’.

Why is it like this? Because major cultural events reflect the societies in which they are embedded.

The ancient Olympics comprised a series of religious ceremonies in honour of the pagan deities. They were in origin the fertility rites of primitive farmers. This included the sports: athletic prowess was an offering to god.

The sort of routine religious procession you will see all over Greece, involving libations, animal sacrifice, and the musical accompaniment of pipes and lyre. The main difference at Olympia is that women play almost no role.

So the whole thing was run by a board of officials from the local town supported by a small staff of priests, heralds, and groundsmen. The cost of the event was minimal – mainly animals for sacrifice – and this was almost certainly more than covered by the revenue brought in by having up to 100,000 visitors camped out at the holy sanctuary for five days.

London 2012, on the other hand, is an artefact of modern corporate capitalism. That it should be sponsored by Dow and BP seems entirely natural to the organisers of the Games.

LOCOG, after all, is itself made up of members of the political and business elite. It would never have occurred to them to do otherwise than to pollute the Olympics with corporate logos, corporate privilege, and corporate green-wash.

From Yale Books Official London Blog

Neil Faulkner

Neil Faulkner is a freelance archaeologist and historian. He works as a writer, lecturer, excavator, and occasional broadcaster. His books include ‘A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics‘ and ‘A Marxist History of the World: from Neanderthals to Neoliberals‘.