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Games sponsor Dow Chemical, which provided the cladding, told Reuters the majority of the 306 fabric sheets that gave a finishing touch to the main venue of the London Games will be re-used for youth projects in Britain or ground down and recycled into new construction materials by Manchester-based company Axion Recycling.
But about 20 panels will be donated to Article 25, a UK charity specializing in providing shelter, to build shaded community areas; one at a training and education project in Rio de Janeiro, host city for the 2016 summer Games; and one at a project in Patongo, Uganda, that provides vocational training for former child soldiers.
“It’s particularly inspiring to be able to deliver a fragment of the London 2012 Games to some of the most marginalized people in the world,” said Robin Cross, the charity’s director of projects.
If the two pilot projects work well, Article 25 may go back to Dow with other proposals,” including shelters in Burkina Faso and an art school in Kenya, Cross said.
Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi, Dow’s technical director for Olympic operations, said the company is also discussing with charities using the steel cables that hold the fabric panels in place to build small suspension bridges in Africa.
Dow is one of 11 international Olympic sponsors with global marketing rights to the Games. Each pays an estimated $100 million for a 4-year cycle covering a winter and summer Games.
The company’s involvement is a hard-headed, commercial proposition. Its aim is to win a sizable chunk of an estimated investment of $100 billion in infrastructure linked purely to summer and winter Olympic events up to 2020.
Piccolrovazzi says this also applies to the re-use and recycling of the novel polyester-based stadium wrap material, developed specially to comply with tough environmental standards imposed by the London Games organizers.
“This is a new technology that was introduced for the first time in London… we will bring not only our knowledge of the material but also our knowledge on the re-use,” she said.
Dow’s sponsorship sparked controversy before the Games because of the company’s links with the Union Carbide Bhopal disaster, one of the world’s worst industrial catastrophes.
Dow bought Union Carbide almost a decade after that company settled litigation linked to the gas leak at its Indian unit which killed and injured thousands, and denies responsibility for the legacy of Bhopal.
“It’s not our issue,” said George Hamilton, the executive in charge of Dow’s Olympic operations. “We weren’t there and we did not acquire any of the liabilities.”