It hardly matters to India’s medal chances if Salman Khan is the Indian Olympic Association’s ambassador or not. Or, if it’s Aamir, Shah Rukh, Ranbir, Kangana or Sachin Tendulkar. Or, for that matter, Milkha Singh, P.T. Usha and their forlorn missed medals. Heading into Rio, the sole concern of India’s sports fans ought to be the 100-odd athletes who they hope will qualify for the August games.
Sure, a celebrity can draw attention towards what tends to be a very modest global meet, medals-wise, for India. But nobody would notice if there was no such thing as India’s Olympic ambassador. There is no known equivalent among the Chinese or Americans and they know a thing or two about the business end of winning medals. But if it so terribly bothers wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, then we need to start wondering if the strongman is indeed focused on his game. For long, India’s malnourished sports — wrestling included — have lamented lack of support from corporates and the celebrity bandwagon. Now that Salman has fetched up, one can only hope a train of sponsors and do-gooders will follow, as will his fans on places like Twitter. Sure, he’ll plug Sultan and Aamir will pitch for Dangal to coincide with the Olympics frenzy, but who says the cinematic superman-ification of the humble wrestler is such a bad thing. If the big cash flows in and supplements the miserly funding, all the better.
Truth be told, Indian sport and its average Olympic achievements could do with a Bollywood celebrity to increase their reach. And athletes would do well to leave the pre-match arclights to those who have mastered the craft of showmanship, and focus on the more fulfilling job of winning themselves a medal.