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Salman as India's Rio Olympics ambassador: Right or wrong?

April 25, 2016 16:09 IST
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IMAGE: Bollywood actor Salman Khan, centre, with boxer M C Mary Kom, right, and India hockey captain Sardar Singh during a function where he was named Goodwill Ambassador of the Indian contingent for the Rio Olympics 2016, in New Delhi, on Saturday. Photograph: PTI

The Indian Olympic Association's decision to make Bollywood superstar Salman Khan as goodwill ambassador for the Rio Olympics-bound Indian contingent, has snowballed into controversy with many sportsperson, like star wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt and legendary sprinter Milkha Singh, criticising the decision even as the IOA and some other athletes backed the decision.

Salman, who is playing the role of a wrestler in his upcoming film, Sultan, was named goodwill ambassador by the IOA on Friday, in the presence of star woman boxer M C Mary Kom, hockey captain Sardar Singh, and shooter Apurvi Chandela among others.

Yogeshwar, who won a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, said Salman has done nothing to merit such an appointment.

'Everybody has the right to promote movies in India, but Olympics is not a place to promote films,' Yogeshwar tweeted in Hindi.

'Can anyone tell me what is the role of goodwill ambassador? Why are you fooling the public?' he added.

The 33-year-old Yogeshwar felt a sportsperson would have been more apt for the position.

'Sportspersons like P T Usha and Milkha Singh strived hard for the nation during difficult times. But what has this ambassador done in sports.

'What will happen by the appointment of an ambassador? If you had to do this drama, then why not appoint a sportsperson?' he asked. 'The country needs medals, not sponsors.'

Milkha, who won gold in the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games, said the fact that no Indian sportsperson was named as ambassador saddened him. He believes that the IOA has taken a wrong decision and should reconsider the move.

'India has produced so many sportspersons who have given their sweat and blood for the country... like P T 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?' he asked.

'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 events?"

The sentiment was echoed by the likes of former hockey star Dhanraj Pillay.

However, Sardar and Mary Kom felt that the Bollywood celebrity's mass appeal will help raise awareness about Olympic sports ahead of the Games 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,' Sardar said.

'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,' opined Mary Kom, a bronze-medallist from the 2012 London Olympics.

India's first and only individual Olympic gold-medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra also backed 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.

'Congratulations on being appointed ambassador of the Indian Olympic Team! An absolute honour which comes with great responsibility!' the ace marksman said in a series of tweets.

Commonwealth Games gold-medallist discus thrower Krishna Poonia said although an athlete would have been a better choice, Salman's popularity is undeniable.

'There is no dearth of athletes in our country. There is P T 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,' Poonia said.

The, though, IOA also stood firm on its decision and said it will rope in more icons from music and cricket to motivate the Rio-bound athletes.

"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," IOA secretary General Rajiv Mehta said.

Is the IOA right in appointing Salman as brand ambassador? Is his appointment just a gimmick?

Would appointing a known figure from the world of sports have made more sense than picking the controversial Bollywood star?

Please take the poll below and have your say.

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