Wednesday 21 February 2018

India seek answers as impostor steals show

Helen Pidd in Delhi

An investigation is under way in the Indian Olympic camp after an impostor slipped into the opening ceremony and hogged the limelight from the real athletes.

The unidentified young woman, wearing turquoise trousers and a red hoodie, led out the team in Stratford on Friday night despite having nothing to do with the squad, who were all wearing yellow turbans or saris.

India's chef de mission PK Muralidharan Raja has demanded an explanation from organisers. "She had no business to walk in with the Indian contingent and we are taking up the issue with the organisers," Raja said.

"We don't know who she is and why she was allowed to walk in. It is a shame that she was with the athletes in the march past. We were initially told that she would accompany the contingent till the track but she went on to take the entire lap. There was another man also but he stayed back and did not enter the stadium.

"The Indian contingent was shown for hardly 10 seconds in the TV coverage and the entire focus sadly was on this lady, instead of the athletes."

He added: "We have taken strong exception to this. The march past is for the athletes and officials attached to the contingent. We are totally taken by surprise how a person could just intrude into the track."

India's sports ministry is to offer coaching jobs to all athletes who represent the country at an Olympics.

The ministry said that the National Institute of Sports would simply issue Olympic athletes with a diploma in coaching, whether or not they had any educational qualifications. A diploma is mandatory to coach in India.

"The NIS will provide them with a diploma in sports coaching as a part of their training," the sports ministry said in a statement.

The announcement comes within days of a decision to give job promotions to any athlete working in the state sector who wins a medal in a top international competition. Medallists at the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games or world championships can be promoted by up to three pay grades.

"It has been decided to fill up more than 400 vacancies. In the first phase, the process of recruitment of 200 coaches is being initiated," the ministry added.

This scheme will also be applicable to disabled athletes.

India's 81-strong contingent at the London Olympics includes 64 athletes from government departments, with the others working mainly in state-owned companies or the private sector.

Hopes are high that the squad will put an end to what the Financial Times this week uncharitably referred to as India's "uniquely inept record". The nation of 1.2 billion people has only won 20 medals in 100 years of Olympic participation.

Sunday Indo Sport

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