By Aritra Mukherjee:
There has always been a ‘tu tu main main’ relation between Bollywood and the Indian sporting fraternity. That is, of course, if we leave cricket out of the debate. Not because it has anything to do with the recent turn of events but it is the only sport which can throw a tough challenge to Bollywood in terms of popularity, and the Hindi film industry is well aware of that. But when it comes to sporting mega-events like the Olympics, Indian sportspersons have maintained a conscious distance from movie stars. So, the Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) sudden decision to appoint Salman Khan as the goodwill ambassador for the 2016 Rio Olympics cannot be accepted with open arms.
First of all, was there a need to appoint Salman? Does he have a significant contribution to Indian sports? Is he funding Indian Olympians? If the answers to the above set of questions are all in negative, then only the IOA can find logic to justify Salman’s appointment. Clubbing Bollywood into every single matter can only attract unnecessary controversy detracting audience from the actual event and further insulting those who are truly involved; in this case our athletes.
In his upcoming film Sultan, Salman plays the role of a wrestler. Surely, that can’t be sufficient for him to qualify as the ambassador of the world’s biggest sporting event. His father and famous writer Salim Khan must have been confused between his son’s silver screen avatar and the real one because he recently tweeted thus – “Salman Khan may not have competed but is an A lever swimmer cyclist and weight lifter.” – defending his son. No wonder it started a Twitter battle, with Olympic great Milkha Singh leading the way.
Nothing against Salman, he is undoubtedly one of the most popular superstars of the country. But what value additions can he offer to the Indian Olympians, is surely questionable. If Bollywood personalities like Hema Malini and Kirron Kher are to be believed, then Salman Khan’s presence will add to the popularity of the games. Well, surely it will. But will people turn up to watch the game or to catch a glimpse of their favourite star? The presence of ‘Bhaijaan’ is more than enough to attract whistles and applause but the likes of Yogeshwar Dutt and Mairaj Ahmed Khan would want a small part of that cheer too. We are certainly not giving the right message to India’s first Olympic gymnast Dipa Karmakar or to Rower Dattu Bhokanal, who have fought against all odds to grab that Olympic participation. They might never be invited as chief guests to the Filmfare Awards, but showbiz stars can surely strut into other’s world for the sake of ‘goodwill’.
It is high time we stop using the popularity of movie stars to grab eyeballs. It is not only futile but also a kind of disrespectful to the sports-persons. Officials must come forward and give the front seat to the deserving. After all, watching an athlete receiving a medal at the Olympics is no less than seeing a superstar receiving an award; and many would say it is a much greater glory.