London Spy

India’s mystery gatecrasher unmasked

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Madhura Nagendra

The mystery woman who crashed India's athletes' parade has been identified as Madhura Nagendra, a postgraduate student from Bangalore.

Nagendra, who is studying for an MBA in London, came through an audition to earn a place as a dancer in the spectacular opening ceremony for London 2012.

But after taking her place among the thousands of other volunteer performers, she then decided to prolong her moment in the spotlight. She snuck in among the Indian athletes as they began their parade around the Olympic stadium on Friday night, taking a prominent place at the front of the group next to Beijing bronze medallist Sushil Kumar, who was the flag-bearer.

Millions of people across the world wondered who the woman in a red top and blue trousers was, with the Indian Olympic contingent outraged that their moment in the spotlight had been hijacked by what was then an unidentified mystery woman.

But back in India, her friends and family recognised her instantly. 

"We knew she had been selected for the cultural programme after an audition. But we did not expect to see her with the contingent!" a former colleague of Nagendra's told The Hindu, before adding that he was not surprised that she had been involved in the ceremony.

"She was a fun-loving person and was very excited about having been selected to perform in the Olympics. Madhura had also shared her happiness on Facebook, where she said she felt it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

A college friend from London also recognised her, and told the Deccan Chronicle that she was "baffled seeing her with the Indian contingent".

Games chief Sebastian Coe explained that Nagendra had "got over-excited", prompting her audacious decision to join in the parade, cheekily adding that the security concerns are something that, "we will be looking at next time we have an opening ceremony".

Madhura's father K Nagendra apologised on behalf of his daughter - who has yet to speak publicly about her high-profile gatecrashing - and said that he thought she may have been asked to help out.

"From whatever I learnt and presume that she being an Indian, the London Olympics Organising Committee might also have selected her to 'take' the team inside the stadium. This might have hurt our team's feelings. I feel very sorry for that," Mr Nagendra told the Times of India.

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