After the appointment of the Bollywood megastar Salman Khan as the Indian Olympic contingent’s “goodwill ambassador” for the upcoming Rio Olympics couple of days ago, the sporting fraternity has been divided over IOA’s this decision. Whereas the star wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt and the legendary sprinter Milkha Singh is questioning and criticizing the move on the other hand some other sport personalities and IOA executives have backed the decision.
The bad boy of Bollywood Salman Khan who is playing the role of a wrestler in his upcoming movie ‘Sultan’ has been appointed as the goodwill ambassador by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Friday in the presence of Indian hockey team captain Sardar Singh, shooter Apurvi Chandela and the star woman boxer MC Mary Kom along with other athletes who are going to take part in the Rio Olympic.
The post “Goodwill Ambassador” itself is an unprecedented one and appoint a movie star for that post has kicked up a storm. The 33-year old wrestler Yogeshwar who won bronze-medal in the last concluded London Olympic game said “Salman has done nothing to merit such an appointment”. The wrestler later tweeted in Hindi, “Everybody has the right to promote movies in India, but Olympics is not a place to promote films. Can anyone tell me what the role of a goodwill ambassador is? Why are you fooling the public? If you had to do this drama, then why not appoint a sportsperson? The country needs medals, not sponsors.”
The legendary athlete, Milkha Singh who won gold in 1958 and 1962 Asian Games and came very close to win the coveted Olympic medal in the 1960 Rome Olympic also felt that IOA has taken a wrong decision by appointing a film-star as the goodwill ambassador and appeals to reconsider it.
“India has produced so many sportspersons who have given their sweat and blood for the country like PT Usha, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Ajit Pal and so many others. One of these could have been made a goodwill ambassador. What was the need to import a person from Bollywood?”
The “Flying Sikh” later added, “I want to make it clear that I am not against Salman Khan, but the decision of the IOA is wrong and the government should intervene in the matter. This is for the first time I am seeing a Bollywood hero being made goodwill ambassador for Olympics. I want to ask has Bollywood ever made any sportsperson an ambassador for any of their mega event? I want that the decision to name Salman Khan as ambassador should be revised.”
Another Olympian and renowned hockey star Dhanraj Pillay also echoed the same, “I would like to see a sportsperson as brand ambassador. We have legendary players such as Milkha Singh, PT Usha, Abhinav Bindra. No doubt Salman is one of the best faces of Bollywood and whatever he says sells. But in sports I feel sportsperson should be ambassador.”
Although midst of countywide criticism, IOA stood up for their decision to name Salman as the ambassador and said they would further rope in more icons from music and cricket to motivate the Rio-bound athletes in the near future.
The IOA Secretary General Rajiv Mehta said in a statement, “We are very happy and thankful on Salman’s offer to support Olympic Sports in this country. This association is only a gesture and does not include any monetary consideration. Our key objective of bringing him on board is to draw maximum attention from the masses, due to which there will be more eyeballs and viewership which will eventually result in popularizing Olympic sports in the country. We may appoint more icons from other walks of life like music, cricket, art culture and Olympic sports etc.”
Mr. Mehta later added justifying the decision, “Mr Salman Khan is only being appointed from the Bollywood segment and we are in talks with two other big names in music and cricket. We are more than willing to have as many icons including the likes of Ms Anju Bobby George and Ms PT Usha who have the capacity and capability to popularise Olympic sports in the country.”
The sportsperson who were present at the event, like Sardar Singh and Mary Kom also vouched for the IOA’s decision and said that the Bollywood celebrity’s mass appeal will help raise awareness about Olympic sports ahead of the Olympic in Rio de Janeiro in August.
“Salman has a huge fan base. He has good views on sports and it’s a good thing for Indian sports that he has come on board. A lot of people are getting connected to Olympic sports because of him. (But) People are entitled to their views. I respect their opinion,” the Indian hockey captain said.
Mary Kom, the five-time World champions and bronze-medal winner in Boxing from the 2012 London Olympics commented “It hasn’t happened before, it’s a good thing for the athletes. It’s good for us to have a brand ambassador like him.”
The ace shooter and the first and only individual Olympic gold-medallist of the country, Abhinav Bindra also praised the IOA’s decision. “Dear @BeingSalmanKhan, am sure you will use your tremendous goodwill to help Indian Olympic Sport and Olympic athletes in their pursuit towards excellence.
Later he also said in his official Twitter account “Congratulations on being appointed ambassador of the Indian Olympic Team! An absolute honour which comes with great responsibility!”
Krishna Poonia who took part in the discus throw category in the last Olympic and also won Gold medals in the Commonwealth Games said although an athlete would have been a better choice but Salman’s popularity is undeniable.
“There is no dearth of athletes in our country. There is PT Usha, Sachin Tendulkar, so many who have done us proud. The public, however, loves film stars and probably it was thought that it would help popularise Olympic sports. I wish all the luck in his new role,” she said.