NEW DELHI – The International Olympic Committee rejected Indian calls Thursday to drop Dow Chemical Co. as a sponsor of the London Games because of its links to the 1984 Bhopal gas leak disaster.
"We were aware of the Bhopal tragedy when discussing the partnership with Dow," IOC President Jacques Rogge said in a letter to the Indian Olympic Association. "Dow had no connection with the Bhopal tragedy."
Dow is sponsoring a $11.4-million decorative wrap that will be installed around London's Olympic Stadium.
Dow bought Union Carbide in 2000. Union Carbide's Bhopal plant is blamed for the deadly gas leak that killed an estimated 15,000 people and injured half a million.
Critics argue that the purchase makes the U.S.-based company responsible for lingering groundwater contamination and other issues.
"Dow did not have any ownership stake in Union Carbide until 16 years after the accident and 12 years after the $470 million compensation agreement was approved by the Indian Supreme Court," Rogge said in the letter.
"The court has upheld this agreement twice since then, in 1991 and 2007. We understand that this is being reviewed yet a third time by the India Supreme Court and we are aware of Dow's position in this matter, and of the sensitivities of all parties."
Rogge said the IOC only enters into partnerships with organizations which the IOC believes work in accordance with the values of the Olympic movement.
"Dow is a global leader in its field of business and is committed to good corporate citizenship. The company has supported the Olympic Movement for over 30 years, providing support and bringing industry-leading expertise and innovation to the Games.
"We do hope that the Indian Olympic Association is recognizing this, while we appreciate the difficult situation you are facing in your country," Rogge said.
Despite Rogge's letter, the Indian body maintained its position that the Dow sponsorship should be scrapped.
"We want that the IOC should understand and appreciate the feelings and sentiments of the victims and drop Dow as sponsors," IOA acting president Vijay Kumar Malhotra said, adding that he now wanted the Indian government to take a stand on the issue.
Amnesty International said the IOC's decision to reject the calls to drop Dow leave a "toxic legacy" on the 2012 Games.
"It is extremely disappointing that Olympic organizers continue to side with Dow Chemical Company while refusing to listen to legitimate concerns over the company's sponsorship of the London Games," Amnesty said in a statement.
Dow's stadium wrap is an innovative curtain that will be hung in strips from the rafters of the steel-latticed stadium in east London. Dow got involved after Olympic officials had scrapped plans for the wrap because its price had been deemed too expensive at a time of economic austerity.