New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was on Saturday unveiled as the goodwill ambassador of the Indian contingent for the Rio Olympics to be held later this year.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA), which made the announcement at its headquarters here, chose Salman from a list of two to three candidates which also included Shah Rukh Khan and veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan.
However, the IOA reportedly chose Salman as he is considered to be more connected with the youth and is known to be a sports enthusiast. The 50-year-old is a youth icon and an inspiration for bodybuilding fans across the country.
His latest film ‘Sultan’ is a sports-drama which sees Salman in the role of a wrestler who rises from small town origins to achieve international success.
“We welcome Salman Khan as the goodwill ambassador of the Indian contingent for Rio Olympics and his association is in line with our focus to create the required excitement in the country. His association will not only attract sports lovers but also help motivate the players to do well in the Olympics. We are sure our association with Salman Khan will go a long way,” IOA president N. Ramachandran said in a statement.
This is the first time that a Bollywood superstar will be a goodwill ambassador for the Indian contingent at the Olympics.
A host of sports stars including M.C. Mary Kom, Sardar Singh, Ritu Rani, Deepika Kumari, Apurvi Chandela and Manika Batra were also present on the occasion.
Praising the sportspersons for their hard work and dedication, Salman hoped that they will be able to win medals at the Olympics.
“I am honoured that Indian Olympic Association has chosen me as the goodwill ambassador for the Indian contingent for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. It is a matter of great national pride that our athletes are performing better and better at the Olympic Games and I think we should all join hands in giving them every support and cheer for them so that Rio 2016 becomes our best Olympic tally.
“They are extremely talented and hard working. They are not here due to anybody’s recommendation. They are here because they are the best in the country. That is the reason why they are going to the Olympics,” the actor told reporters.
“Kuch na kuch zaroor leke aana (Please bring something from the Olympics),” the ‘Dabang’ star added in a lighter note when asked to give a message to the members of the Indian Olympic squad.
Salman also called for more appreciation and public interest in non-cricket sports, adding that he may visit Rio during the Olympics in order to cheer for Indian athletes.
“Olympic sports don’t get enough viewership as compared to cricket. It’s not cricket’s fault but our fault for not watching. They need our support. I will try to go to Rio for a while if not for full duration,” he said.
“My sporting heroes are Sania (Mirza), Sushil (Kumar) and Vijender (Singh). I hope I can give them the push that they need, in my role as goodwill ambassador,” he added.
Salman later shared a photo with several Indian sportspersons including star women’s boxer Mary Kom and Indian hockey captain Sardar Singh on his official Twitter account.
“I am happy that Salman Khan has come forward to support and cheer for us during Rio Olympic Games. It’s a big moment for all the athletes participating in the Rio Olympics. Our preparations for the Rio Olympics are going well and we are hopeful of delivering our best results this time,” Sardar said.
“I am happy that Bollywood superstar Salman Khan has come forward to support and cheer for us during Olympics. Our team has qualified for Rio Olympics after a period of 36 years and we are not leaving any stone unturned in our preparations for this big event,” Indian women’s hockey team captain Ritu Rani added.
This is not the first time that Salman has been associated with sports events. The Bollywood star had been earlier seen at Pro-Kabaddi league matches including a match between U Mumba and Puneri Paltan in July last year.
The IOA also announced that the Edelweiss Group will be the principal sponsor of the national contingent for the Rio Olympics. The Edelweiss Group announced a life insurance cover of Rs.1 crore for all the Indian athletes at the Olympics.
The 2016 Olympics will be held at the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro from August 5-21.