London: Prime Minister David Cameron has defended Dow Chemical`s sponsorship of the Olympic Games in the face of Indian anger over the company`s link to a deadly gas leak in Bhopal in 1984.
In an interview with Indian broadcaster, Cameron described Dow as a reputable company and said it would be very sad if India decided to boycott the Games in London this year.
Cameron said he had been shocked by the tragedy in Bhopal in which as many as 25,000 people died at a pesticide factory owned by a subsidiary of Union Carbide but did not want the Olympics to be used for political purposes.
"Dow was not the owner of Union Carbide at the time, so this is a different company and a different business," Cameron said.
"Secondly and more importantly, the sponsorship of Dow for the Olympics is arranged and done by the International Olympic Committee...And I don`t criticise their decision making process," he added.
Dow bought Union Carbide in 2001. The Indian government wants Dow to pay an additional USD 1.7 billion (1.0 billion pounds) compensation for Bhopal, but Dow has refused, saying it has no responsibility for the accident and that Union Carbide settled liabilities.
Dow signed up as one of the International Olympic Committee`s 11 leading international sponsors in 2010. Companies generally pay around USD 100 million to endorse a summer and winter Olympics.
Anger over Dow`s involvement was fuelled when the company stepped in to pay seven million pounds for a decorative wrap to hide some of the unsightly tubing around the London Olympic Stadium.
The Indian Olympic Association has written to the IOC calling on them to drop Dow as a partner. However, its head Vijay Kumar Malhotra has said he does not support calls for a boycott of London.
Cameron said he hoped that India would be represented in London when the Games start in July.
"I want Indian athletes to come and compete. I think it is going to be fantastic Olympics this summer 2012, I want them to come," he said.