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Protests on opening day of Olympics

By Sheena McKenzie
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Fri July 27, 2012
London Black Cab drivers have spoken out against the Olympic lanes.
London Black Cab drivers have spoken out against the Olympic lanes.
  • London cab drivers cause gridlock in Olympic lanes protest
  • Bhopal Medical Association demonstrate outside Olympic park
  • BMA campaigners claim Dow has responsibility for 1984 Bhopal gas leak tragedy
  • Dow denies claims, buying Union Carbide 16 years after disaster

(CNN) -- London experienced protests in the both the east and center of the capital just hours before the Olympic opening ceremony.

Taxi drivers gathered at Hyde Park corner as part of a demonstration against Olympic traffic lanes, while protestors held a "die-in" against major sponsor Dow Chemicals outside the Olympic Park in Stratford.

Despite the protest, thousands turned out to see the torch make it's final journey through London. Preparations were also in place for a special opening night concert in Hyde Park featuring bands Snow Patrol and Duran Duran.

The first world records of the London 2012 Olympics were set by blind South Korean archer Im Dong Hyun-- hours before Friday's much-anticipated opening ceremony was due to begin.

The traffic protest started at 2pm, with taxi driver Mick Bailey telling CNN: "We're all sitting in our cabs and traffic is at a standstill. It's a sea of black cabs as far as the eye can see.

Cab drivers argue the traffic lanes -- which are restricted to Olympic officials and athletes -- should also be available to taxis.

Mick, who has been a Black Cab driver for more than 30 years, said businesses had dropped off since the implementation of the lanes.

He added: "The Olympic lanes are going to mean a great deal of hardship for drivers and passengers. We won't be able to pick up people on the left hand side of the road, there will be diversions and higher meter readings."

By 3pm the serious congestion had eased, the Automobile Association (AA) said.

The protest followed another demonstration against major sponsor Dow Chemicals Friday morning.

Members of the Bhopal Medical Appeal held a 'die-in' in protest against the company it claims has responsibility for the fatal 1984 gas leak in India.

Dow Chemicals is a major sponsor of the Olympics, with the multimillion-pound deal including a fabric wrap around the stadium in east London.

However, the deal has caused controversy with campaigners arguing Dow holds responsibility for the disaster in Bhopal, which killed an estimated 15,000 --- a claim which it denies.

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Dow bought Union Carbide -- the company which ran the plant -- 16 years after the disaster and argues it has no responsibility.

Protesters gathered at 10.30am outside the gates of the Olympic park. Dressed in shrouds, they pretended to be "dead" -- a reference to victims of the fatal leak at the pesticide plant.

London Assembly member Navin Shah told gathered protesters: "I am proud that the Games are taking place in London but the protesters like me are simply against the sponsorship of Dow Chemical who have betrayed the victims of the Bhopal Disaster.

These protests symbolize peoples' concerns about large scale environmental and human rights abuses."

Dow Chemicals told CNN it remained "fully committed to our partnership with the IOC and to contributing to a successful, positive London 2012 Games" and questioned whether the protest should go ahead.

"The use of the Olympic Games to protest has become an unfortunate part of what should be a global celebration. We believe in freedom of speech and encourage debate on this important issue," said a Dow spokesman in a statement.

"However, we regret the misinformed and misdirected allegations and actions of some, which are not constructive to the resolution of the issue or consistent with the spirit of the Olympic Games."

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