New Delhi // India’s sports minister could be stripped of his accreditation at the Rio Olympics after complaints of “aggressive and rude” behaviour by his entourage.
The Rio organising committee said it had received several reports of Vijay Goel trying to get unaccredited people accompanying him into Olympic venues.
“When the staff try to explain that this is not allowed, they report that the people with the minister have become aggressive and rude and sometimes push past our staff,” committee manager Sarah Peterson told India’s chef de mission, Rakesh Gupta, in a letter cited by the Press Trust of India news agency.
“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of behaviour, the accreditation of your minister for sports will be cancelled and his privileges at the Olympic Games withdrawn,” she wrote.
Mr Goel has denied any wrongdoing, saying it was a “misunderstanding”.
“What is being said is that my staff may have done something wrong, but I am not aware of this or any misbehaviour. Nothing is being said about me, it is about my staff,” he told the NDTV news network in Rio.
But the charge has led to an outpouring of anger on social media in India, where politicians are frequently accused of abusing their position to skip queues or zip through traffic in their official cars.
“Sad to see our ministers carrying the ‘do you know who I am?’ attitude to Rio Olympics,” said one Twitter user, Karun Chandhok.
“Finally, India has won a medal at Rio Olympics. It’s for lunatic behaviour. Thank you sports minister,” tweeted another.
The Indian Express newspaper meanwhile accused Mr Goel of spending his time in Rio taking selfies with "exhausted Indian athletes".
India has sent a 118-strong contingent to Rio, its largest ever for an Olympic Games, and the sports ministry has set a target of 10 medals.
But athletes complain of substandard training facilities and a lack of government investment in sport in a country that has enjoyed two decades of rapid economic development and has a booming population of 1.25 billion.
* Agence France-Presse