The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) announced its decision to appoint Bollywood star Salman Khan as the goodwill ambassador of the national contingent for the Rio Olympics on Saturday.
The Bajrangi Bhaijan actor was himself present at IOA headquarters in New Delhi with several Indian sportspersons, including five-time World Champion boxer MC Mary Kom and Indian men's hockey team captain Sardar Singh when he was named the goodwill ambassador.
However, not everyone seems to be happy with the decision as Twitter instantly exploded with reactions.
The move was questioned by several members of the Indian sports fraternity with 2012 London Olympics bronze medalist Yogeshwar Dutt making his displeasure public with a series of tweets barely an hour after the decision was announced.
coach saab! Log ko filmy & asli jeevan ka fark samjhna chahiye. Ambassador ke liye asli life ki chavi chahiye. https://t.co/jJR1lPHUhU— Yogeshwar Dutt (@DuttYogi) April 24, 2016
Without naming Salman, Yogeshwar also accused the actor of using the Olympic platform to promote his upcoming film Sultan. A sports-drama, the film depicts the struggle of a wrestler as he makes the journey from small town Haryana to success at the international level.
Kahi bhi ja Kar apni movie ka promotion kare,Es desh me adhikar hai Lekin Olympic movie promotion ki jagah Nahi https://t.co/ed6vCqNMXT— Yogeshwar Dutt (@DuttYogi) April 23, 2016
PT Usha,Milkha Singh jaise bade sports star hai jinhone kathin samay me desh ke liye mehnat ki. Khel ke kshetra me Es ambassador ne Kya kiya— Yogeshwar Dutt (@DuttYogi) April 23, 2016
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Several other reactions followed
Former athlete Milkha Singh has also lashed out at the IOA's decision. "I want to make it clear that I am not against Salman Khan, but the decision of the IOA is wrong and the Government should intervene in the matter. This is for the first time I am seeing a Bollywood hero being made goodwill ambassador for Olympics. I want to ask has Bollywood ever made any sportsperson an ambassador for any of their mega event?
"I want that the decision to name Salman Khan as ambassador should be revised," he was quoted as saying, reports Times of India.
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IOA rushed to justify its decision. "We are very happy and thankful on Salman's offer to support Olympic Sports in this country. This association is only a gesture and does not include any monetary consideration," IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta said in a statement on Sunday.
According to Mehta, roping in Salman as the ambassador of the Indian contingent is intended to attract more public attention towards Olympic sports in the country by drawing on the Bollywood star's mass appeal and popularity among the youth.
"He 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 popularizing Olympic sports in the country," the IOA official asserted.
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"We may appoint more icons from other walks of life like music, cricket, art culture and Olympic sports etc. Mr. Salman Khan is only being appointed from Bollywood segment and we are in talks with two other big names in music and cricket. 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," he added.
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai also came to the superstar's rescue and said that instead of picking at the appointment one should appreciate the move which can inspire the youth of the country.
Veteran actor Hema Malini also extended her support.
And there are many others who agree with the decision
Dear @BeingSalmanKhan , am sure you will use your tremendous goodwill to help Indian Olympic Sport and Olympic athletes (cont..)— Abhinav A. Bindra OLY (@Abhinav_Bindra) April 24, 2016