New Delhi: Raising objection to the appointment of Bollywood actor Salman Khan as Indian contingent's Goodwill Ambassador for upcoming Rio Olympics, legendary Indian athlete Milkha Singh has said that all athletes, shooters, wrestlers, boxers participating in the sporting extravaganza were all India's Goodwill Ambassadors.
Milkha said that the athletes participating in the event were the real ambassadors and there was no need for another ambassador.
"The IOA should have thought of what's the need of the ambassador. I'm saying that the team who all are going whether it is shooting, wrestling, boxing or athletics, they all are our ambassadors. Out of 120 crore people in India, they have been our ambassador then what is the need of any other ambassador?
Milkha further added that if at all there was need for an ambassador, India have several great sportspersons who should be appointed for that post.
"It doesn't make sense to appoint someone in this role. If an ambassador is required, we have many great sportspersons, like Sachin Tendulkar, P.T. Usha, Ajitpal Singh, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore," he said.
Soon after Milkha raised his objection, Salman's father Salim Khan lashed out at him saying that it was the Bollywood industry which resurrected him from fading away in oblivion.
Reacting to Salim's statement, Milkha, who finished fourth in the 400 metres sprint at the 1960 Olympics, said, "It's okay they have made a film on me. I don't think that the movie industry has made a favour to me by making a film on my life.
"If they have any function, will they put any sportsmen as their chairman or ambassador? I gave my story for Re.1 and it is not a little thing. The movie made crores.
"If Salman Khan's father is saying that Milkha Singh has said anything wrong, then I don't agree to it, because the entire nation is saying that I am right and they are with me."
Meanwhile, celebrities like actress-politician Kirron Kher and filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya have defended the IOA's decision to appoint Salman as the face of India at Rio Olympics.
"It is a very good decision. I am very proud of Salman Khan. All people who are trying to say that only a sportsman should be appointed as an ambassador, I would like to differ from them," Kirron said at the Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Awards event here.
"No need to think that only a sportsman can represent the country. Any eminent personality who inspires us can be a brand ambassador. I welcome the decision."
"I would request the sports fraternity to be more magnanimous. Be a good-hearted person and give Salman his due respect. We actors are also hard workers and give our best," Kirron added.
Barjatya, who has delivered numerous hits like "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo" with Salman, was also present at the event. He said: "It's a matter of great happiness because there is no one more just and appreciative like him. He has always been a sports lover, he plays good cricket, football and is a good cyclist. I know him closely so, I'm very happy for him."
When filmmaker Karan Johar was asked about the controversy at the wrap-up party of his production "Baar Baar Dekho", he said: “I love Salman Khan. Whatever he does, he is the best for it.”
(With Agency inputs)