Beijing: The chairman of London`s 2012 Olympic organizing committee said on Sunday that he is comfortable with having Dow Chemical participate as a sponsor of the games despite criticism over its links to a gas leak in India that killed thousands.
An estimated 15,000 people died in 1984 when gas leaked out of a Union Carbide pesticide plant in the central Indian city of Bhopal. Dow bought Union Carbide in 2001 and says legal claims from the disaster have been resolved.
Victims of the accident, as well as former Indian Olympians and officials, have been pressuring Olympic organizers to drop Dow as a sponsor. Less than two weeks ago, protesters in Bhopal burned an effigy of the head of the Olympic organizing committee, Sebastian Coe.
On Sunday, Coe defended Dow`s involvement.
"Of course I understand the human scale of that suffering, but these are two very different issues," he said.
The U.S.-based chemical manufacturer will pay for a curtain-style wrap to encircle the Olympic Stadium in east London under a deal announced in August.
In India, survivors and their advocates say the wrap project with Dow ignores the immense pain they have suffered since Dec. 3, 1984, when gas and chemicals leaked out of the pesticide plant, which was owned and operated by an Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide. The world`s worst industrial accident killed 15,000 people and injured 500,000, according to the Indian government, and is being blamed for major local health problems 27 years later.
Union Carbide paid USD 470 million as compensation for those killed or injured. The Indian government is seeking an additional USD 1.7 billion for the victims.
"Dow were never the operators or the owners of that chemical plant in 1984, nor were they the operators or the owners of the plant in 1989 when the final settlement was agreed," Coe told reporters in Beijing. "And in fact, that final settlement was upheld on two separate occasions by the Indian Supreme court."
"Dow only became the major shareholders in that company in 2001, some 17 years after the tragedy," he said.
Coe said Dow "came up by some distance with the most sustainable offer" to put the wrap around the Olympic Stadium.
"I feel comfortable having analyzed the history of this case," he said.
Coe was in Beijing to attend the International Paralympic Committee general assembly. He announced Sunday that Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television would be the exclusive broadcaster for next year`s Paralympic Games in London.
Also on Sunday, Coe presented a set of Olympic bicycles to the British Embassy in Beijing to highlight London`s preparations for environmentally green and sustainable games.
The Chinese-made bikes are for embassy staff to use on official business.