The Olympic season is just around the corner across the world — the Olympic flame has been lit and is now on its journey to Rio de Janeiro.
Meanwhile, in India, a film on wrestling is soon to be released. The present government has decided that our athletes could do with some inspiration and rope in the actor, oops, the star from this film, who, in his beefed up avatar and short crop, they believe, will be India’s poster boy for the games.
If we already didn’t have a face for the aforementioned star, most would have placed their bets on Aamir Khan. After all, with Dangal releasing in a few months, it’s about time he became omnipresent. But since Mr Right has undone his goodwill with the government by his `intolerant’ remarks, the government opted for another Khan, as India’s goodwill ambassador for the Rio Olympics 2016. Salman Khan.
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Well, there are ample jokes – and some are really pretty good — on social media that explain why Salman is a poor choice. Take for instance the one by @greatbong on Twitter: “Good to see Bhai as the goodwill ambassador for Olympics. Our athletes should be inspired to run over their opposition.” Or the one by @RoflGandhi_: “Salman is a great choice for our Olympics ambassador and if the organizers agree to set deer as a target, he may fetch us gold in shooting.”
However, let Bhai’s credibility – or the lack of it – not come in the way of the larger argument: is a film star, however popular, the right choice as goodwill ambassador for world’s largest sporting event?
Many are of the opinion that a sporting star would make for a better choice. Milkha Singh? After all, he had a Bollywood film based on him a couple of years ago which was highly successful (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag). Or how about Sachin Tendulkar whose widely publicised birthday celebrations continue in the media.
Also, why is it never a woman, I wonder, like PT Usha? But that’s another debate and let’s not veer away from Bollywood.
The argument often presented is that a film star brings high visibility. And in this case, he will help shine light on the various sports and their often unknown participants.
But how many of us can remember how many sportspersons (let alone their names) featured in that photo-op along with Salman when he was introduced as the goodwill ambassador, last week? Yes, Mary Kom is one right answer but she became a star on her own might and even inspired an A-list actor to play her in a Bollywood film, so thank you very much. Who else? Sadly, almost no one remembers because neither the headlines nor the captions in the media bothered to mention anyone except Salman.
So the real question isn’t, ‘Should Salman should be the goodwill ambassador for Rio Olympics 2016?’, but ‘Will this appointment help anyone but the appointed film star gain publicity?’ The answer, I suspect, , we already know.