Vemuri Sudhukar has died age 71 ©BAI

The Badminton Association of India (BAI) has led tributes to Badminton World Federation (BWF) referee Vemuri Sudhakar, after he contracted COVID-19 and died age 71.

Sudhakar is the only Indian to officiate at three consecutive Olympic Games in badminton - Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.

He was also an official at three Thomas and Uber Cups, two Asian Games and three World Cups.

Sudhakar also chaired many international competitions and was associated with the sport for more than 40 years.

Before his death, Sudhakar was serving as the deputy chairman of Technical Committee of Badminton Asia.

"He has also been a mentor and guide to many," read a BAI statement.

"You will be fondly remembered in our hearts and memories forever."

Top Indian players such as women's singles world champion PV Sindhu mourned Sudhakar's death.

Sudhakar had been suffering from COVID-19 when he died.

Veteran coach SM Arif was one of the first to share a tribute to the respected BWF referee.

"I always shared my thoughts not just on badminton but about many aspects of life with Sudha," Arif told Sportstar.

"He was such a wonderful person, always speaking straight from the heart.

"The badminton fraternity misses an official who knew the rules better than anyone else."

Former women's doubles world bronze medallist Jwala Gutta expressed sadness over Sudhakar's death on Twitter.

"We lost a gem, end of an era - we miss you uncle," said Gutta.

Gutta also sent a picture of a note Sudhakar had written for her from his hospital bed.

"He had always been a wonderful person," added Gutta to Sportstar.

"We don't find such clean personalities nowadays."

India recorded more than 4,500 coronavirus deaths in a single day for the first time yesterday.