In a candid interview to CNN-IBN's Karan Thapar on the show Devil's Advocate, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, strongly defended DOW as a sponsor for the London Olympics.
DOW, which bought over Union Carbide — the company that was involved in the Bhopal gas tragedy, has been facing steady protests from the victims of the tragedy. The government of India in a recent letter to the International Olympics Committee expressed dismay over DOW's London sponsorship and has even threatened to boycott the Games. The DOW row has turned into a major embarrassment for the London 2012 organisers and the IOC.
In the interview, the British Prime Minister made it clear, that, "DOW was a perfectly reputable international company." In his view he saw no moral responsibility to drop DOW as a sponsor of the Games.
Cameron however added, that he understood the suffering and the anger of the victims of Bhopal. "Frankly my heart still goes out to those who suffered from that appalling tragedy. I remember reading about it as a young man and being profoundly shocked by what happened," he said.
But while he was keen to show empathy for the victims of the gas tragedy, for him, DOW was above reproach.
He stated that two things had to be kept in mind about the whole issue. "The first that DOW was not the owner of the Union Carbide factory at the time of the tragedy. This is a different company. The second thing is that the sponsorship for the Olympics is done by the IOC. It is their decision making process and I won't criticise it," he said.
The British Prime Minister was keen to make the distinction; DOW sponsorship was an IOC issue and not of the British government.
But, anchor Karan Thapar pointed out that DOW as a successor company had some moral responsibility for what happened in Bhopal. For instance when DOW had acquired the Union Carbide factory in Texas it had set aside $2 billion to deal with asbestos damages. The question for most Indians was, Why couldn't DOW do the same in Bhopal where nearly 20,000 had died?
Cameron dodged that question saying, "Any successor company has a moral responsibility of course but London Olympics is about athletes coming to compete. DOW is reputable company. To conflate these issues is wrong."
For the British Prime Minister, the major concern is clearly the success of the Games. On the issue of India's threatened boycott, Cameron said: "Well it's up to people to make their own decisions, to take their own choices. What I am saying is the British Prime Minister wants to see the Olympics be successful. I am wanting to see the Olympics not used for industrial or political or other purposes... that I cannot see a problem with the IOC being sponsored by Dow. I think it followed perfectly reasonable processes. Therefore, I cannot complain about Dow sponsoring the London Olympics."