WHILE Indian athletes have been chasing medals at Rio, Sports Minister Vijay Goel has been chasing them — for photos, more photos, and yet more photos. Over four full days.
From a beaming selfie with a visibly exhausted boxer Vikas Krishan and another next to gymnast Dipa Karmakar at the Games Village to being in the centre of the group photo after the women’s hockey team drew 2-2 against Japan. It was that last photo that brought the Rio Olympic Games organising committee in the frame.
On Wednesday, the organisers threatened to cancel Goel’s accreditation, alleging the minister and those accompanying him entered areas that were off bounds. It further stated that those accompanying Goel were “aggressive and rude”.
In a letter, Sarah Peterson, continental manager of the Rio 2016 Organising Committee, asked Rakesh Gupta, India’s chef de mission, to pass on the warning to the minister.
“We have had multiple reports of your Minister for Sports trying to enter accredited areas at venues with unaccredited individuals. When the staff tried to explain that this is not allowed, they reported that the people with the Minister have become aggressive and rude and sometimes pushed past our staff,” said Sarah Peterson in the letter.
“As you can understand, this type of behaviour is not acceptable. Despite previous warnings, it would seem that even today the same incident occurred at the Rio Olympic Arena (Gymnastics venue) and Carioca Arena 3,” Peterson added.
“Should our protocol team be made aware of further examples of this type of behaviour, the accreditation of your Minister for Sports will be cancelled and his privileges at the Olympic Games withdrawn. We trust you will pass on this message urgently,” she said.
Gupta tried to play down the incident, but acknowledged that Goel had been on the field of play at the hockey venue.
“At the completion of the India-Japan game, when India did well, the Minister was invited by the team to interact with the players. He went down to the field with the volunteers of the Organising Committee and met the players,” Gupta said in a statement.
“However, the moment it was brought to his notice he left the field and met the players outside. Since then, whenever the Minister has visited the field of play at any venue, he has done so with a special pass. It is unfortunate that a non-issue is being made an issue without any reason,” he added.
The Sports Minister was spotted at Abhinav Bindra’s event, too, but exited after the shooter ended fourth. On Thursday, he attended Shiva Thapa’s bout but left the venue as soon as the boxer lost to his Cuban opponent.
Goel, too, downplayed the incident and stressed that all rules were followed. “To my knowledge, we have been following all rules & regulations. We are committed to the spirit of Olympics & back our Indian players. There seems to be some misunderstanding as we have followed all protocols as advised by the organizers,” he tweeted.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines