Rio 2016: Goodwill ambassador Salman Khan splits sporting world; IOA counters criticism

Wrong cast? Indian Olympic Association counters widespread criticism by saying more icons from other fields will be appointed in future

Latest News
Rio 2016: Goodwill ambassador Salman Khan splits sporting world; IOA counters criticism


The Indian Olympic Association's (IOA) decision to appoint Bollywood actor Salman Khan as the goodwill ambassador of the Indian contingent for the 2016 Rio Olympics has created a wide split among Olympians in the country.

In an apparent move to attract more eyeballs into Olympic sports, the IOA had, on Saturday, named Salman as the goodwill ambassador.

The appointment drew both criticism and support from various current and past Olympians, with wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, legendary athlete Milkha Singh and hockey wizard Dhanraj Pillay making their dissatisfaction clear.

Dutt was the first to voice his angst. In a series of tweets in Hindi, the 2012 Olympics bronze medallist said: "Can anyone tell me what is the role of goodwill ambassador? Why are they fooling the people of this country?"

Milkha seconded the wrestler, urging the Union government to revise the decision.

"India has produced so many sportspersons who have given their sweat and blood for the country, like PT Usha, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Ajit Pal. One of them could have been made a goodwill ambassador. What was the need to import a person from Bollywood?" he said.

However, there were sports persons who backed the move as well. Boxer Vijender Singh, who won India's first ever Olympic medal in boxing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has now turned professional, told dna that Salman's face will make a difference in increasing the popularity of Olympic sports.

"The reach that Salman bhai has, I don't think anyone else in the country can match that level right now. He is perfect for the role of a goodwill ambassador. And he is not taking a single penny for it. So why are people having a problem?" Vijender said.

Others who favoured the decision included hockey captain Sardar Singh and India's only individual Olympic gold-medallist shooter, Abhinav Bindra.

Sensing the growing controversy, the IOA was quick to respond, saying they may appoint more icons from other filelds like cricket, arts and culture in future.

"He (Salman) is the biggest Bollywood star in the country in terms of mass following and 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 popularising Olympic sports in the country," Rajeev Mehta, secretary general of IOA, said in a statement on Sunday.

"Mr. Salman Khan is only being appointed from Bollywood segment... 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," Mehta added.

Find your daily dose of news & explainers in your WhatsApp. Stay updated, Stay informed-  Follow DNA on WhatsApp.

Live tv