LONDON – A mysterious woman in red has caused an international incident at the London Olympics.
Indian officials are mystified — and miffed — after an unknown young woman managed to march with the country's athletes and officials during the opening ceremony Friday night.
Games organizers on Sunday downplayed security concerns around the unscripted moment, saying the interloper was a ceremony cast member and had been screened before entering the Olympic Park.
Images from Friday's ceremony showed a young woman in turquoise jeans and a red jacket marching alongside Indian flag bearer Sushil Kumar at the head of the delegation of 40 athletes in bright yellow and navy blue.
"We are totally dazed," Indian press atttache Harpal Singh Bedi said. "How can a person without any accreditation walk past?"
Indian officials said they had no idea who the woman was. Indian media identified her as Madhura Nagendra, a graduate student from the southern city of Bangalore who had been living in London.
Her father, K. Nagendra, was quoted by the Press Trust of India news agency as saying that his daughter had been chosen to dance in director Danny Boyle's ceremony, and speculated that she might have been asked by organizers to escort India's team into the stadium.
"This might have hurt our team's feelings. I feel very sorry for that," he was quoted as saying.
The mystery woman case dominated Indian media's coverage of the opening of the games.
"Who's That Girl?" asked the front page of The Hindustan Times.
"Leaky London: Unaccounted presence in march past," said a headline in the Times of India. The newspaper said the mystery woman had "brazenly gatecrashed the party, raising security concerns and adding to the anger over India's blink-and-miss appearance on global TV screens."
Bedi said India's acting chef de mission, P.K.M. Raja, had sent games organizers an official letter of complaint.
"I think this is definitely a security lapse," Bedi said.
But London organizing chief Sebastian Coe insisted the woman had not posed a threat to the ceremony. He told reporters she was "a cast member who clearly got slightly over-excited."
Some 10,000 volunteers performed alongside professional musicians, actors and dancers in Boyle's spectacular ceremony.
Coe stressed the woman had been screened to get into Olympic Stadium so there had been no security breach.
"Don't run away with the idea that she walked in off the street," Coe said, adding that games officials "will have our own discussions" about the incident.
There was perhaps a touch of Indian satisfaction in Britain's perceived lapse, which comes as India is suffering its own Olympic embarrassment. An Indian court has barred Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi from attending the London opening ceremony, citing the "national interest."
Kalmadi is out on bail after spending nine months in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges related to the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
India also was stung by British media criticism of the chaotic preparations for those 2010 games in New Delhi, which were marred by construction delays and a budget that ballooned from $412 million to $15 billion.
Bedi said the opening ceremony intrusion did not reflect poorly on India.
"We are too big a country to be embarrassed by it," he said. "It should be an embarrassment for the hosts, not for India."