Salman Khan is pumped up for his newest role. The Indian Olympic Association announced him as the Goodwill Ambassador of the Indian contingent for the Rio Olympics 2016. The announcement was made in the presence of Olympic medalists and Rio-bound athletes MC Mary Kom (boxing), Sardar Singh, (captain, Indian men's hockey team, Ritu Rani, (captain, Indian women's hockey team), Apurvi Chandela (shooting) and Manika Batra (table tennis). We met the actor at the announcement, where he spoke at length about his association with sports. Excerpts:The Olympics are the biggest sporting event. Why does the Indian contingent need an ambassador?
The Olympics are not that well covered and watched in India like in other countries. So, when somebody comes to support the players, it makes them feel good and work harder. They become more inspired and dedicated. Having someone like me helps in creating a buzz about the Olympics.In an earlier interview to DT, you spoke about wanting to popularise football, and then there was talk of you buying a football team. But while so many actors own teams in different sporting leagues, you've still maintained a distance. Why?
Yeah, that (buying a football team) never happened, simply because I don't want to be a part of any one team. If I can, I'd like to join the mother body. I don't see myself fighting with Delhi, Pune or KKR. No doubt, it's a wonderful way to promote sports, but I want to be there (pointing to the top). So, when it becomes Salman's team versus Preity's team or Shah Rukh's team, it no longer remains a sporting thing, it gets into the area of gossip. Also, the 'responsible press' will take away focus from the match, and I don't want to give anybody that kind of mileage. I want to do something for the overall development of sports.So, what will be your 'duties' as Goodwill Ambassador?
I want to charge up the players and see how they are progressing. If we can increase our medal tally compared to last year, it would be great. When that happens, the infrastructure, diet, coaching and other facilities get better. Pehle (ambassador) nahi lekar aaye thay toh theek hai, par ab jab kisi ko lekar aaye hain toh the players should be encouraged. Since I can only participate in the Olympics if walking were a sport, isiliye main woh hoon jo gaadi ko piche se dhakka de sakta hai. I will also try to go to Rio in the initial phase of the Olympics.But do we need a Bollywood celeb to bring glamour to sports apart from cricket?
Everyone's watching cricket, and it has lots of stars. We need to make stars in other sports. Today, people watch tennis because of Leander Paes and Sania Mirza. Similarly, Saina Nehwal and Dipika Pallikal are stars in their own right. Football will take over very soon because the next generation is hooked to football. Our fault is that we blame cricket, while we need to watch more sports on TV compared to the rubbish we watch on TV. Once we do that, TRPs will go up, and players will get endorsements and they will become stars. While flipping through channels, stop at a badminton match, and try to know who is playing. You want hockey to return to its old glory, watch a game - be it in the stadium or on TV. We (Bollywood celebs) just give that initial impetus.Salman Khan - Anushka Sharma caught in action on 'Sultan' setsRio Olympic 2016: Hema Malini supports Salman Khan as brand ambassadorWould you be meeting everyone who qualifies for Rio, such as Dipa Karmakar?
Yeah. I saw her video and felt she was amazing. See, this I what I mean. Coming from a place that has no infrastructure or proper equipment, and making it to this level, only means you have it in you. Just imagine, if the government and the corporates join hands to support a player, he/she will get the best facilities and go a long way, since already, without anything, and eating dal chawal, they are kicking ass.You are known for being a fitness icon, but how involved have you been with sports?
I played every kind of sport when I was growing up. My only problem was that when I used to get good at it, I'd stop and look for something new. So, I'm basically a jack of all sports, master of none. If you ask me to do swimming, I can. I can play anything from football and hockey to cricket. But it will take me some time to play better than what I used to, because all that was a long time back. I did all that stuff at the school level. My target was - never one sport. So, I was just about average in every sport.Since in your next, you are playing a wrestler, do you now understand the mind and body of a sportsperson better?
I'm acting to be a wrestler, and to act perfectly, you need to do stuff that the real wrestlers do. So, being picked up and being thrown on mat or mitti, it hurts (me) as much it hurts them. Also, picking them up and throwing them is a painful exercise. When they have a match, it's for about half an hour, but I'm shooting all day. You are grabbing, you are holding, you are patkoing. Also, I am fighting real wrestlers in the film, and so, when they throw you, they throw you really hard. This is my most difficult film. As a kid, when we used to get tired, we'd laugh and still go on till we were exhausted. But today, as soon as you're tired, you're like, 'Bas karo yaar, thak gaye. Kal karte hain.' But sportpersons keep on going and push themselves to the next level. We do compete in the film industry, but that's different from the competition players participate in. We might think we are working hard, but there's somebody who is working ten times harder. I am trying to enjoy that pain of learning.How difficult was it for you to go through that of training at this age?
I have done it all my life... running, gym, cycling. My body is okay. I do all sorts of training and not just weight training.Why do you think a film on cricket has not been as successful as a film on hockey or boxing?
Cricket on screen looks fake. I don't know how the upcoming biopics will do. Mary Kom had a story of her struggle, and so, it did well. 'Chak De! India' had an incredible story. So, in cricket films too, you need a story.So, 'Sultan' has that kind of story?
'Sultan' is a love story and a love story never fails.Listen to the songs of Salman Khan on Gaana.com
...Some Olympians ask: But why is he there at all?
While many Rio-bound athletes are supporting Salman Khan's appointment as the Goodwill Ambassador, wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt and sprint legend Milkha Singh are among those who oppose the move.
Milkha Singh: Sportspersons are the real ambassadors. Why import a bollywood celeb?
Ur sportspersons are the real ambassadors of India who would represent the country in the Olympics. India has produced so many sportspersons who have given their sweat and blood for the country like PT Usha, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Ajit Pal... One of these could have been made ambassador. What was the need to import a person from Bollywood? The decision of the IOA is wrong and the government should intervene. This is for the first time I'm seeing a Bollywood hero being made ambassador for Olympics. Has Bollywood ever made any sportsperson an ambassador for any of their mega event?
Real wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt questions reel wrestler Salman
Everybody has the right to promote movies, but Olympics is not the place. Can anyone tell me what is the role of goodwill ambassador? Why are you fooling the public? Sportspersons like PT Usha and Milkha Singh strived hard for the nation during difficult times. But what has this ambassador done in sports? What will happen by the appointment of an ambassador? If you had to do this drama, why not appoint a sportsperson? The country needs medals, not sponsors.Indian Olympic Association: Salman will attract the youth
When celebrities who appeal to the public come forward to help, naturally we get more publicity. This association (with Salman) is only a gesture and does not include any monetary consideration... We may appoint more icons from other walks of life like music, cricket, art culture and Olympic sports... We are more than willing to have as many icons like Anju Bobby George and PT Usha who can popularize Olympic sports in the country
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Edited by Shooter. - 25 April 2016 at 11:19pm