Bollywood actor and IOA’s goodwill ambassador Salman Khan became the cynosure of all eyes, instead of the 20-odd Rio-bound athletes, who were given a warm send-off in New Delhi on Monday.Salman Khan, India’s goodwill ambassadors, Rio Games, Rio Olympics, AR Rahman, Sania Mirza, Indian Olympic Association, IOA, IOA Send-off
A record contingent of 121 athletes, including 54 women, will represent India at the upcoming Rio Games in the Brazilian city known for its sand and sea.
At the function, Salman said, “People have a lot of hope from this contingent, I wish you guys all the very best. I am here from Bombay to give you a send-off and respect that you deserve. I know how difficult it is to be a sportsperson and I know it because I couldn’t become one.
“I didn’t have that much strength to become a sportsman but you guys have it and that’s why you guys have qualified. Go there and give your best. Please don’t come early.”
Salman’s appointment as India’s goodwill ambassador for the Games, ahead of his latest movie Sultan’s release, caused a controversy, leaving the country’s sporting fraternity divided. Following the row, some more faces including music composer AR Rahman and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar were appointed as goodwill ambassadors.
At the send off function in the Capital, Rahman was also present to wish good luck to athletes representing India at the Games.
Tennis ace Sania Mirza, shuttlers PV Sindu and Kidambi Srikanth, talented wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Babita and Sandeep Tomar, archer Deepa Karmakar and paddler Manika Batra were among those athletes present on the occasion.
Indian Olympic Association president N Ramachandran said, “The contingent this time is one third more than last time and this itself proves that Indian athletes are improving. It is not just about winning medals but qualifying to participate in the Olympics itself is a huge thing.”
Besides Ramachandran and his colleagues from IOA secretary general Rajiv Mehta and treasurer Anil Khanna, other dignitaries present were sports minister Vijay Goel, sports secretary Rajiv Yadav, SAI director general Injeti Srinivas, chief de mission Rakesh Gupta and deputy chief de Mission Anandeshwar Pandey.