China Olympics, Tibet Torture, Coca-Cola Profits

Linked with Indian FAX ACTION about Coca-Cola, with Dangerous Pesticides in Coca-Cola and Pepsi in India, with no water for peoples need, with Down to Earth, and with a Hunger Strike and Coca-Cola in India.

Published on India Resource Center, by Amit Srivastava, April 28, 2008.

San Francisco: Responding to a question about Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the Olympic Torch Relay at the Coca-Cola shareholders meeting last week, Mr. Isdell, CEO of Coca-Cola, defended the sponsorship by referring to the Olympic Torch as a symbol of hope and openness.

At about the same time, the Olympic Torch was being run in New Delhi, India. On hand were over 15,000 armed security personnel, including Indian paramilitary forces and Chinese security, and the public was largely banned from attending. On hand to view the ceremonies were a very select few, including a group of children outfitted with Coca-Cola T-shirts …

… The current protests around the Olympic Torch Relay are a perfect moment to scrutinize the role that corporations play in this day and age of globalization and send a clear message to the corporations that human rights must come before profits.

On the one hand, there is increased talk of Corporate Social Responsibility – which is corporation’s response to globalization – in which Coca-Cola figures prominently. Yet, when a pressing issue such as Tibet comes to the fore, Coca-Cola chooses to remain silent and endorse the Games for financial reasons, absurdly citing “openness” and “hope” to defend their involvement.

On March 20, 2008, over 150 Tibet support groups from around the world penned a letter to the Coca-Cola company labeling its sponsorship of the Games “tasteless” and asking it to ensure that the Olympic Torch does not go through Tibet.

We are not holding our breath to hear anything positively from the Coca-Cola company in this regard.

Many in India are accustomed to Coca-Cola’s doublespeak and spin to divert attention from the real issues. Ironically, the Coca-Cola company has chosen to promote “environmental stewardship” as part of its sponsorship of the Olympic Torch Relay. No matter that thousands of farmers in India have challenged the company for destroying the environment, particularly water resources, that one of its largest bottling plants in India has been shut down because of pollution, and that its own assessment has confirmed what the communities in India have been saying all along.

If we have learnt anything from the past, and the horror of the Nazi Germany era, it is incumbent upon us to demand that the Coca-Cola company act. At the very least, the company should state publicly that the Olympic Torch should not go through Tibet – an unconscionable act, according to Tibetan activists. And if Coca-Cola is serious about being a good corporate citizen and even an average student of history, it must end its sponsorship of the Beijing Olympics to send a strong message that financial profits are secondary to human rights. (full text).

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