Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Secretary General Lalit Bhanot was today left embarrased at the daily press briefing here after misinterpreting a question on reports of a South African swimmer calling Indian spectators "monkeys".
Asked about reports of Roland Schoeman's remarks that "it's unacceptable to be at a professional event like this and have people going on like monkeys", a bemused Bhanot at first responded, "There are monkeys in that area and we are trying to get them out of there."
As journalists tried to figure out what he meant, the OC official was explained by an aide what the question exactly was. Fennell and Hooper, who were seated alongside Bhanot, found it hard to control their laughter at the slip-up. Sheepishly, Bhanot said he was unaware of any such report. "I have no information on that but if it has happened, it is very unfortunate," he said.
Pressed further on what the Indian organisers plan to do to respond to the "derogatory" comparison, Bhanot said since these are "friendly" Games, no protest would be lodged. "These are friendly Games. If it has happened, it is unfortunate. But nothing can be done because these are friendly Games," he said.
Fennell offered a more serious explanation for the reported crowd trouble at the archery and swimming events. "As far as the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is concerned, we do not tolerate improper and racist behaviour but this is a problem all over the world and it has to be stopped," he said.
"Right around the world, it (crowd control) is a key issue we have specialised. We have special sports presenters. They ensure that crowds keep quiet in sensitive moments of play. It's the job of these presenters that spectators remain quiet in such situations," he added.
The daily briefing also had journalists asking for where OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi, who has had his fair share of slips of tongue including the much-reported reference he made to "Prince Diana", was for the past couple of days. Asked why Kalmadi had not been attending the press conference, Bhanot said, "He is OK. He had to attend some meetings. I am the secretary general of the OC and I am here to answer your questions."
Bhanot has had a miserable time with the media and his remarks on hygiene standards being different in the West and India invited widepread ridicule and criticism.