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Dow committed to providing London 2012 stadium wrap despite criticism

• ‘We are committed to our Olympic partnership’ says executive
• Bhopal controversy ‘gone on longer than I’d have anticipated’

Dow Chemical says it is fully committed to providing the decorative wrap for London’s Olympic Stadium despite continuing criticism of its involvement.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has demanded London 2012 terminates its deal with the US firm because of its links to India’s Bhopal gas disaster in 1984.

Last month Meredith Alexander, a member of the body which oversees the sustainability of the London Olympics, quit in protest, saying people should be able to enjoy the Games without “a toxic legacy on their conscience”.

“It would be great to be controversy-free, but as I talk to other sponsors and other parts of the Olympic organisation you realise that over the years the Olympics has been a free platform for organisations and individuals to make their points,” said George Hamilton, vice-president for Dow Olympic Operations.

“It’s a free country and people are allowed to state their case and then take actions, they are allowed to do that.

“I can’t speak for what people’s motivations are but it is what it is … this is not going to deter us, we are committed to our Olympic partnership, both in London and future Games and we are committed to delivering technology that makes it the most successful Games in the history of the Olympics.”

Dow denies any responsibility for the accident that activists say killed up to 25,000 people after the leak at a pesticides factory then owned by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), a subsidiary of Union Carbide.

Dow completed a deal to buy Union Carbide in 2001 and campaigners have demanded that it boosts a 1989 compensation package for those affected by the disaster.

Hamilton said the compensation paid by Union Carbide and UCIL in 1989, a sum of 0m (£296m), was twice upheld by the supreme court, and Union Carbide sold its Indian subsidiary in 1994 and “exited India”.

He said that Dow, one of the International Olympic Committee’s most recent partners, was looking forward to strengthening its partnership in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and was undeterred by bad publicity.

“We had no association with Bhopal, we bought a company that was an investor so why would we take action that would imply that we were connected or doing something out of guilt,” he said. “We recognised when we became a sponsor that organisations and individuals would try and associate Dow with legacy issues.

“We were prepared for that. It’s gone on longer than I would have anticipated but it doesn’t change our resolve.”

Dow’s plastics division is providing the material for 336 panels that will adorn the outside of the Olympic Stadium during the Games before they are dismantled and reused elsewhere.

Hamilton said the decorative wrap, initially scrapped by the British government to save around £7m, was effectively a gift to the British public. “What we are trying to do is throw in a little more light and colour,” he said of the 25m-high vertical panels which, under IOC rules, will have no Dow company branding.

“The London organising committee, the designers, the engineers, artists and architects said that the wrap was necessary – let’s not just pull it and leave this stark structure that would not have been a good image.

“Dow stepped in and addressed this not just on an aesthetic point but also on a costing point; we relieved a financial burden to the taxpayer by contributing this wrap.”

However, Alexander claimed last month that the London Organising Committee should have nothing to do with Dow and the wrap could still be scrapped. “They are basically legitimising Dow’s position that they have no responsibility for Bhopal,” she said last month after quitting the Commission for Sustainable London 2012. “The wrap is completely optional, so I think Locog do have the choice here about whether or not they cancel the contract.”

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