Worldwide Olympic Partner’ Dow Chemical Company have been confirmed as the supplier of the fabric ‘wrap’ that will complete the new Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
Planners had been intended the Olympic Stadium to be fitted with a wrap that would encircle the stadium. Last year however, in an effort to cut costs to the taxpayer by up to 7 million, Olympic officials decided to scrap this flamboyant final touch.
Earlier this month though, Michigan-based Dow have announced that they will be funding and producing the wrap, which will consist of 336 panels, each 25m high by 2.5m wide. The panels will be made in Seattle from a mixture of polyester and polyethylene, unlike previous proposals that had elected for either hemp or a continuous video screen. Next year, the wrap will be installed around the stadium’s exterior and will feature Dow branding until the beginning of the Games, with the International Olympic Committee insisting that venues be free from advertising upon their commencement.
Dow have expressed their intentions to conform to guidelines on sustainability and green technology. As a result, the wrap’ will include such elements as UV-curable inks – which produce fewer emissions than their solvent-based cousins – and special resins made by Dow’s Performance Plastics Division. It is claimed that such measures will allow the final product to be up to 30% lighter than conventional materials. Following the Games, Dow intend to recycle the equipment used to hang the wrap. They are also seeking an alternative use for the wrap once it has served its purpose of decorating the Olympic centre point.
This announcement comes at an interesting time for Dow. Last month, fresh rallies were staged in Bhopal, India, by survivors of 1984’s gas catastrophe, in which a pesticide plant owned by United Carbide India suffered a fatal leak, resulting in thousands of deaths and over half a million injuries. Many of the victims of this disaster believe they were never suitably compensated for their injuries. In 1999, Dow took over United Carbide, as a consequence of which they are now seen as liable for resolving the aftermath of the disaster.
The announcement of Dow’s plans to provide the wrap for the Olympic Stadium has already provoked controversy.
During their long history, Dow were also known for producing napalm and the notorious Agent Orange that was used in the Vietnam War. Dow’s UK managing director, Keith Wiggins, has expressed a desire for the company to be judged on its future developments rather than its chequered past.
The London 2012 organisers are understandably excited that the stadium will finally be completed in spite of financial cutbacks. Nevertheless, it is hard to predict the how Dow will ultimately be perceived as a consequence of this undertaking. With angry voices making themselves heard regarding the Bhopal disaster, as well as others questioning how sustainable the wrap will be, it will be interesting to see whether Dow’s wish to assume a new, clean-cut image will be granted.