The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) works in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform. The choice of film actor Salman Khan as the goodwill ambassador for India at the Rio Olympics has predictably set a cat among the pigeons, with the IOA justifying the choice and many sportspersons questioning it. The post itself has been created for this sporting event and prima facie there seems to be no case at all for the actor to be cast in this role. His only claim to sportsmanship is that he plays a wrestler in the movie Sultan, but then again there have been many actors who have essayed the role of sportspersons in movies, notable among them Farhan Akhtar as the great sprinter Milkha Singh. Mr Khan is undoubtedly a cine superstar with legions of fans. But his role as goodwill ambassador in no way adds lustre to India’s presence at the event, rather it will be the tally of medals and the conduct of our participants that will attract attention.
If an ambassador is at all required, there are a number of eminent sportspersons who could be chosen. The star is hardly a role model for young people, given his track record. He has been known to be violent to the women he has had relationships with and is an accused in the shooting of a black buck. Instead of prolonging this controversy, it should be the endeavour of the IOA to make sure that our sportspersons are in the best shape they can be to participate in this highly competitive event.
Our sports infrastructure leaves much to be desired and this should be a source of worry to the IOA. It is these nuts and bolts issues that should be tackled, not just for Rio but also in the long run and not choosing ambassadors to generate goodwill. Mr Khan’s presence could actually impact adversely on India if someone were to delve into his past. This is certainly not the sort of publicity that India should court. In recent times, young Indian sportspersons have shown some promise in different fields. The effort of the IOA should be ensure that they perform to their maximum potential at Rio and increase our so far unimpressive medal tally.