London Olympics Leader Defends BP's Sponsorship

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- London Olympics leader Sebastian Coe defended BP on Tuesday, saying the company is a "partner to stay" of the 2012 Games despite the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP has been a top-tier sponsor of the London Olympics since 2008 in a deal valued at about $58 million. The company has come under severe criticism in the United States for its handling of the massive spill.

"BP is a world-class company that is dealing openly with a very serious issue," said Coe, chairman of the London Olympic organizing committee. "I want them to be able to focus on doing that but also reassure you that they are a partner to stay."

BP is also a sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

London organizers are promoting the 2012 Olympics as the greenest games ever, and Coe dismissed suggestions that BP's tarnished image could also reflect on the London Games.

"If I felt uncomfortable about BP or my board had felt uncomfortable about BP, they wouldn't have been sitting at the table in the first place," Coe said. "BP have a strong record of supporting sports. They are a premier partner in the Cultural Olympiad. They have been active in that space for the last 30 years.

"I'm delighted they're our partners. They will remain our partners."

Coe spoke to reporters in Lausanne after a regular update to the International Olympic Committee executive board on preparations for the 2012 Games. He reiterated that the Olympics will remain on track despite the heavy spending cuts in Britain aimed at trimming the country's massive deficit.

On Tuesday, the government unveiled the toughest cuts to public spending in decades.

Last month, the Olympic Delivery Authority, the group responsible for building the venues, had its funding cut by $39.5 million. The overall public sector budget for the Olympics is $13.6 billion.

Coe said it was unclear how Tuesday's emergency budget would affect the Olympics but stressed the games were providing an "economic dividend" to Britain through billions of dollars in construction contracts.

Coe said he reassured the IOC that political support for the games in Britain remains unchanged after the installation of the new coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron.

"During a hard-fought general election, the all-party approach to the games held firm," he said.