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EXCLUSIVE - Calls for 2012 Olympics boycott hurting Indian sport - IOC chief

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge on Tuesday urged India’s Olympic association to talk with its athletes over ongoing protests related to the 2012 London Games’ sponsorship deal with Dow Chemical.

People walk past The Olympic Stadium inside The Olympic Park in London December 4, 2011. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

The Indian government has asked its Olympic association to raise the issue of the sponsorship deal in the latest sign of pressure on organisers to reconsider the involvement of a company linked to the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster.

Many victims and activists hold Dow responsible for failing to give enough compensation to victims and some have called for a boycott of the London Games.

The pesticide plant was owned by Union Carbide, which settled its liabilities with the Indian government in 1989 by paying $470 million for Bhopal victims.

Dow bought Union Carbide a decade after the company had settled with the Indian government and now finds itself in the firing line for its sponsorship of a temporary decorative wrap over London’s Olympic Stadium.

“Definitely we respect a lot the emotion in India because this is a horrific catastrophe,” Rogge said as part of a wide-ranging interview.

“While we totally understand the emotions and the grief one has to say that Dow Chemical was not involved in the Bhopal issue.”

Activists say 25,000 people died in the immediate aftermath of the accident and in ensuing years, and about 100,000 people who were exposed to the gas continue to suffer today from ailments that range from cancer, blindness to birth defects.

“We have advised the IOA to enter into a dialogue with their athletes and this is what they will do. I would hope the interest of sport and interest of the athletes will prevail,” he said.

“Every measure calling for a boycott is a measure that is hurting Indian sport and I am glad to say that there is no intention at the level of the IOA to consider such actions.” (Editing by Peter Rutherford)