The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on 23 April unveiled the popular Bollywood actor Salman Khan as the goodwill ambassador of the Indian contingent to Rio Olympics. Salman, who is playing the role of a wrestler in his upcoming film Sultan, was named goodwill ambassador by IOA in the presence of star woman boxer MC Mary Kom, hockey captain Sardar Singh, shooter Apurvi Chandela among others.
The appointment seems to have agitated a few sports-person; first to pour his disappointment on twitter was 2012 Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt.
The Wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt questioned Salman’s credibility as an ambassador as opposed to established sports players such as Milkha Singh and P.T Usha. He said these sports persons represented India in difficult times and should have been considered.
"Everybody has the right to promote movies in India, but Olympics are not a place to promote films. Can anyone tell me what the role of goodwill ambassador is? Why are you fooling the public?” said the Olympics bronze medallist. Expressing his disappointment the sportsperson further said that it would have been more apt for the position - "Sportspersons like PT 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? The country needs medals, not sponsors". Pulling a jab on the recent movie of Salman Khan on wrestling, he further added that Olympics are no place to promote a movie, which demeans the event.
The legendary splinter, Milkha Singh has also showed his disappointment saying Olympics should be represented only by a sports-person.
“I personally believe that sportspersons should be the goodwill ambassadors as they represent India. Mind you, I have nothing against actor Khan, but all said and done, a sportsperson should have been picked up as the ambassador,” said the Flying Sikh.
The sentiment was also echoed by the likes of cricketer Gautam Gambhir and former hockey star Dhanraj Pillay. "I would like to see a sportsperson as brand ambassador. We have legendary players such as Milkha Singh, PT Usha, Abhinav Bindra, etc. No doubt Salman is one of the best faces of Bollywood and whatever he says sells. But in sports, I feel sportpersons should be the ambassadors," Pillay said.
However, prominent players supporting the appointment of the 'Dabang' actor as the Goodwill Ambassador include Indian Hockey Captain Sardar Singh and the lady boxer Mary Kom. They feel that the Bollywood celebrity's mass appeal would help raise awareness about Olympic sports ahead of the Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, 2016. "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," opined Sardar. Supporting the appointment, Mary Kom, a bronze-medallist from the 2012 London Olympics, 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". Even Former India cricket captain Sunil Gavaskar also said there was nothing wrong with IOA appointing Salman Khan as the Indian Olympic contingent's goodwill ambassador and cited the example of how IPL has "benefited" through its association with Bollywood stars.
However, it is undeniable that Salman's appointment as the goodwill ambassador has triggered an undesirable furore leaving the sports fraternity largely divided with several distinguished spokesperson vocally questioning the move, while the IOA and several other athletes also supporting the decision.