April 25: A storm was kicked up after the Indian Olympic Association on Sunday decided to make Bollywood superstar Samlan Khan the goodwill ambassador for the Indian Olympic contingent at this year’s Rio Olympics.
While there have been mixed reactions from the sports fraternity itself, and the IOA has also justified its move saying that it’s meant to get more attention towards Olympic sports in India, we couldn’t help but wonder about those that IOA could have chosen, instead of Salman.
India has always had a healthy crop of vivacious and supremely talented sports people, who have won innumerous accolades for the country. We have compiled a list of 10 such sportpersons, who the IOA could have considered for Olympics Ambassador:
1. Sania Mirza
This Hyderabad girl is the winner of five Grand Slams and is the current World No.1 in women’s doubles. She broke the threshold for Indian women in tennis and how! She’s got the looks to match her skills and a stunning presence that perfectly complements her persona of a strong and consistent winner. She would have been the perfect choice for an ambassdor for Indian Olympics contingent (if we did need one).
2. Saina Nehwal
Haryana girl Saina Nehwal put India on the map of word Badminton and not just put it there, but made it shine like no one else did. She became the first Indian to win a medal in Badminton at the Olympics, when she won the bronze at the London Games in 2012 and in 2015, became the world No. 1 Badminton player. She has a good visage and a charming personality that would have been perfect for the Ambassador. What’s more, she is competing this year too! Also Read: Salman Khan as goodwill ambassador of India’s Olympics contingent draws mixed responses
3. Mary Kom
Mary Kom has fought a long battle to prove her mettle in sports, and her story was beauitfully documented in a biopic that was made on her life, and that starred Priyanka Chopra. She is the epitome of courage and perseverance, shining in a sport which is traditionally dominated by men. She is five-time world champion and an Olympic bronze medalist at the 2012 London Games and is competing at Rio too. Need we say more?
4. Vijendra Singh
He is the pride of Indian boxing as he broke the glass ceiling for Indian boxers in the Olympics, by winning a bronze at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He has also dabbled with acting and is someone who brings glamour quotient to the sport (if that is what the IOA was looking for in Salman). He is a role model for many young Indians and would have been the prefect Ambassador.
5. Sushil Kumar
Sushil Kumar is the only wrestler who has won a Silver medal for Indian in the Olympics during the 2012 London Games. He managed an amazing feat of getting four bronze medals for India in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, which means he managed to shine two games back-to-back! He has an easy charm and a humble persona and would have been a great choice for the Ambassador.
6. Leander Paes
Having won eight doubles and an equal number of mixed doubles Grand Slam titles, Paes is considered the one of the best doubles and mixed doubles players of the late 1990s, 2000. He continued to maintain his winning spree into the present decade. He became the oldest man ever to win a Grand Slam, when he waltzed to victory along side partner Martina Hingis in the mixed doubles at the Australian Open in Melbourne in 2015. Isin’t that reason enough to make Paes represent our contingent at this year’s Games?
7. Mahesh Bhupathi
Bhupathi became a household name when he won the French Open mixed doubles title alongside Rika Hiraki of Japan in 1997. He joined a select group of Association of Tennis Professionals in 2006, after he won the Australian Open with his partner Martina Hingis.
8. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore
This sports person-turned-politician who is also an Army colonel, has made India proud at Olympics multiple times. Even before Abhinav Bindra was to go down in history for his gargantuan feat at the Beijing Olympics, Rathore had bagged the silver medal in Men’s Double Trap in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, becoming the first Olympian for the nation to clinch an individual silver since the 1900 Paris Olympics.
9. Abhinav Bindra
After Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s winning streak in the Olympics, India found another star shooter in Abhinav Bindra. But Bindra outshone Rathore too and did something that no Indian shooter could do- he won the gold in Men’s 10m Air Rifle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He literally lifted the sport out of obscurity in India, of course with help from the stellar shooter Rathore.
10. Vishwanathan Anand
Anand is one of the greatest chess players that the world have ever seen. He became India’s first chess Grandmaster in 1988 before becoming the undisputed world champion in the mid-2000s. The government of India acknowledged his great accomplishments by honoring him with the Padma Vibhusan, the country’s second highest civilian award in 2007. Although chess is not included in the Olympics, but then that is also the case with making tired remakes of Tollywood films, with no plots and annoying songs (if you know what I mean).
In India, attitude towards sports does need to change. But for that, band aid measures like associating Bollywood stars with it to ‘grab eyeballs’ for isolated events, like the IOA said in its defence, is not going to work. Sports coaching and training need an overhaul and we need defnitive measures to make sports other than cricket lucrative and attractive.
By saying that Salman has been roped in just to attract maximum attention from the masses, the IOA has reinforced the same stereotype that sports events do not warrant attention on their own. As for the sports people who are objecting to the appointment, they have all the rights to do that. In a country where glamorous reel faces and big monies in cricket take away all the limelight, people who are real heroes and have struggled their entire lives to make it big in professional sports are bound to feel insecure and wronged.