Is Salman Khan the right choice as Indian Olympic Association’s Goodwill Ambassador for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games?
The sporting fraternity is divided—-split wide open in fact.
Olympic bronze medalist at the 2012 London Games in the 60 kg freestyle wrestling category Yogeshwar Dutt condemned the move in a series of tweets.
“Can anyone tell me what’s the job of an ambassador? Why are you fooling the nation’s public?”
“You can promote your movie anywhere you like to. You have every right. But the Olympics is not the right place to do so.”
“PT Usha and Milkha Singh have served the country during difficult times. What has this ambassador done?”
“I’m a sportsperson, so I was made an ambassador. I don’t drink liquor nor smoke beedis or cigarettes. Why Salman for the Olympics?”
Milkha Singh who missed a medal by a whisker at the 1964 Rome Olympics in the 400 metres joined Dutt’s criticism saying:
“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?”
IOA Vice-president Tarlochan Singh defended the decision.
“When celebrities who appeal to public come forward to help naturally we get more publicity which is good for sports. Trend among the youth is that they look towards such film celebrities. If we utilise them there’s no harm. We’re getting his ( Salman Khan) help and not giving him anything. IOA is not paying him a penny.”
Sports is entertainment and sports persons are entertainers.
So why can’t entertainers be sporting ambassadors? They can attract more eyeballs and appeal to a wider demographic. Perhaps, women will take much more interest in sports now that actors such as Dharmendra, Abhishek Bacchan, John Abraham, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and others are investing in sporting properties such as the IPL, ISL, PWL and others. Isn’t that what the IPL and Big Bash all about—an attempt to attract more women and children, making these games a family outing?
Sports other than cricket can certainly do with the boost and interest generated.
However, the timing of Salman’s appointment is suspect. The Bollywood superstar plays a wrestler in his upcoming movie Sultan. His rival Aamir Khan plays yet another in Dangal.
Was this one-upmanship on Salman’s part cocking a snook at the more thoughtful Khan?
It certainly stinks to high hell.
Salman Khan does not smell of roses given his embroilment in a hit-and-run court case despite being acquitted.
It doesn’t help that Sardar Singh and Mary Kom behaved like star-struck fans at the press conference.
Reel life imitates life—not the other way around. It’s time our sporting heroes realized that.
Pro boxer Vijender Singh disagrees:
“This isn’t about Salman bhai’s upcoming movie Sultan or its promotion. Salman does a lot of movies every year, and he doesn’t need Olympics for it. Like he himself said, he is doing it as a goodwill gesture. And I have no doubt that he is doing this for the better of Indian sports.
So all in all, I feel this is a really positive step for the future of sports in our country. I have no doubt that it will make a difference in terms of getting more people interested in Olympics sports.”
Singh is hardly the best person to comment though. The pugilist is part of Bollywood starring in the Hindi film Fugli. He probably still harbors filmi aspirations.
At the press conference, the charming Khan said:
“My heroes are Sania Mirza, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar in sports. I think wrestling is a very painful sport. I was shooting for my film where I shot for many wrestling sequences. I can act like I am fighting, but I cannot fight like wrestler in real life.”
Scriptwriter Salim Khan supported his son’s selection by taking to Twitter shooting out the following tweets:
(Salim Khan does make a point.
After sports persons, models and film actors are probably the fittest people in this country.
The fitness revolution in the film industry was heralded by the likes of Salman Khan and Sunjay Dutt.
Dutt took to body-building after kicking a drug habit.
The duo were a sea change from the chocolate heroes Indian womanhood went ga-ga over. It must be said that Salman and Sunjay combined brawn and glossy looks. They are also the perennial bad boys of Bollywood.
Now it’s rare to encounter any newcomer to Bollywood who does not boast a chiselled physique.
Abhay Deol and Ranbir Kapoor are notable exceptions.
Salman cultivates an image of a fitness icon and a hard drinker. It’s hard to reconcile the two. The man is a contradiction in terms: actor, drunk, Casanova, reckless and foolhardy, philanthropist, singer and painter.
“I heard someone saying sportsmen need publicity or sportsmen need Bollywood, but sportspersons do not need Bollywood or film industry for publicity, it is the other way round.
Movies made on sportspersons do not give them any excitement. They do the job for their country because that’s their passion and they want to do something for the country.”
“(Abhinav) Bindra would have been the ideal choice,” added Gambhir.
Pooja Bhatt too joined issue with Salim Khan about his comments on Milkha Singh and the Indian film industry.