Union sports minister Vijay Goel said on Friday that all allegations of misbehaviour against him and his entourage at the Rio Olympics was a “misunderstanding”, attempting to push back against charges that have outraged sports fans.
The minister’s comments came hours after the organisers of the Rio Olympics in Brazil sent a letter to the chief of India’s team, saying Goel’s men were rude and aggressive with local staff and threatened to revoke the minister’s accreditation for the games.
But the BJP leader rejected allegations that he barged into areas meant only for athletes and said no rules were flouted.
“I don’t know who wrote the letter and what his post is. The letter...states they have some issue with our staff regarding misbehavior or access. They have not written against me, the letter does not have anything against the sports minister,” Goel told reporters.
“Jab hamari team jeeti, humne pass banwaya aur tab gaye. (When our team won, we got the necessary permits made to go to them).”
From selfies with pariticipants to clicking snapshots with the women’s hockey team, the minister has been in the thick of things at the event where the Indian contingent has so far failed to win any medal. He has shadowed athletes in Rio for photos, often seconds after the matches.
The letter in question, sent by Sarah Peterson, continental manager for Rio Organising Committee, has sparked a wave of outrage in India, where many said the minister was taking focus away from the country’s Olympic contingent and had shamed the nation with his behaviour.
But Goel denied receiving any letter – which was sent to the Indian chef-de-mission Rakesh Gupta – and said no complaint was made against him. ”I’ll check if someone from the staff did something wrong. As sports minister, I have an all-access accreditation. I can go to lounge,” he said.
He also tried to explain his photos with Vikas Krishan and Manoj Kumar, immediately after the two boxers won their bouts – snaps that appear to back the Rio organiser’s allegations.
“We didn’t cross anything,” says Goel. “Hum visitors gallery me hi the. Manoj mujhse milne aaya aur bola ki baad me bhi milna chahta hai. (We remained in the visitors’ gallery. Manoj came to me and said he wanted to meet me later as well)”