Bollywood superstar Salman Khan’s appointment as the goodwill ambassador of the Indian contingent for the Rio Olympics did not go down too well with everyone.
While many Olympians, including Milkha Singh, opposed the decision, Bollywood fraternity stood firmly with the Bajrangi Bhaijaan actor.
Actors Kirron Kher and Sooraj Pancholi, who attended the Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Awards event in Mumbai, also extended their support to Salman.
“No need to think that only a sportsman can represent the country. Any eminent personality who inspires us can be a brand ambassador. I welcome the decision.”
“I would request the sports fraternity to be more magnanimous. Be a good-hearted person and give Salman his due respect. We actors are also hard workers and give our best,” Kiron Kher said.
Salman’s protégé Soorja said, “I think that’s a good decision, because he is a very known face. He is doing a film on wrestling Sultan, so maybe because of that (he was selected).”
Interestingly, Salman’s ex-flame Aishwarya Rai Bachchan were among those who welcomed the decision. For the first time in many years, the former beauty queen said something in support of superstar Salman Khan.
At the unveiling of L’Oreal’s Cannes 2016 collection, the former Miss World didn’t shy away from casting her vote in favour of her Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam co-star.
“I have to say that anyone, who is doing good to represent the country or working or speaking or standing for the betterment of art, music or sports, is wonderful and the person needs to be recognised.”
Salman earlier said that ‘him’ being an ambassador of Rio Olympics will raise the profile of the Indian contingent at the Olympics along with interest in their performance.
“The Olympics are not that well covered and watched in India like in other countries. So, when somebody comes to support the players, it makes them feel good and work harder. They become more inspired and dedicated.
“Having someone like me helps in creating a buzz about the Olympics,” he said in an interview to the Times of India.
However the sporting fraternity has largely argued against this decision, including the likes of legendary athlete Milkha Singh and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt.
Olympic gold medallist Gurbax Singh said appointing a sports personality as the ambassador would have been more apt. “I think there were several other eligible people from the sports fraternity who could have been made the brand ambassador for Olympics. Ideally, someone who has made some achievement for the country should have been chosen,” Gurbax said at an event organised by television channel Aaj Tak on Wednesday.
“By nominating Salman, you might get some sponsors but I don’t think that should be the criterion.”
However, former national football captain Baichung Bhutia differed with this view and said that Salman who essays the role of a wrestler in his upcoming film ‘Sultan’ will help promote Olympics in India.
Though he did not say it in as many words, Baichung hinted that the Bollywood star can grab more attention than Olympic gold winner Abhinav Bindra.
“Bollywood sells everywhere in India. Take any sports event for example there has to be a dose of Bollywood. Now if that is going to help India then nothing wrong in it,” he added.