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An open letter to Salman Khan from an Indian Olympian

Olympian Neha Aggarwal speaks about Indian Olympic Association's decision to appoint Salman Khan as Olympic goodwill ambassador.

Salman Khan during the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) press conference 

Dear Mr. Khan,

The Oxford dictionary defines a goodwill ambassador as “A person serving (usually unofficially) to promote goodwill between countries, institutions, etc.; now chiefly a well-known person (especially a celebrity) appointed by a charity or other organization to publicize its activities or promote a specified cause."

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) recently appointed you as the goodwill ambassador of the Indian contingent for the Rio Olympic Games this summer. You were chosen above equally (or higher) renowned actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan.

Moreover, you were chosen above the real heroes – Milkha Singh, PT Usha, Sachin Tendulkar, and many more.

Congratulations!

In your interview you expressed, “Ek hota hai na aadmi peeche se dhakka marne wala, support karne wala, woh respect ki ek baat hoti hai, ke yaar he is supporting us, we need to give our best.” (You know that expression, somebody giving you a push from behind, somebody who supports you, that’s something that should be respected, look he is supporting us).

(Video Source: Times Now)

I guess you meant that the athletes respect you, and if you support them, chances of them being motivated to win a medal at Rio will be high. I am sorry, Mr. Khan. But here is the truth:

Athletes train day and night their entire lives for this one moment to represent our motherland at this one event that comes once in four years, with the aim to win a medal and see the tricolour go high. It takes years and years of hard work and perseverance to produce an Olympic athlete.

Sacrifices are made every single day. Strict and disciplined regime, financial inadequacy, lack of infrastructure, uncertainty of a win, and a short-lived athletic career: these athletes have made tons of sacrifices in their journey to the Olympic Games.

They are motivated enough, Mr. Khan.

They have their skills that they have been nurturing all this while to support themselves. They have their coach’s support. They have their family's support. They have the IOA and their federation’s support. What they truly need, and what this country needs, is the collective support of the 1.2 billion people that we all are.

Something you get when a big blockbuster is released on screen.

The athletes want to be recognized on the streets like you are, Mr. Khan. They want the media to publish their stories and achievements more often than it is done now.

The IOA has appointed you as the goodwill ambassador to promote Olympic Sports and our jeweled athletes to the people of this nation, who are still unaware of these "unsung heroes."

It is their moment, Mr. Khan

Please don’t steal it away from them. We will all watch Sultan, because we all love you anyway.

The IOA chose you because you are influential and your words mean a lot to the Indians. They all follow you and are inspired by you.

Your Being Human campaign has changed the lives of so many Indians. If you ask them to go play badminton, athletics, wrestling, boxing, table tennis, or any other Olympic Sport, they will listen you. If you ask them to watch the Olympic Games, they will do so. If you post a selfie with an unsung hero, they will share the post.

Neha believes Salman was illogically chosen ahead of greats such as Milkha Singh and PT Usha 

The jersey you are wearing, Mr. Khan, kindly respect it. For many Olympians, including myself, it is hard-earned. It’s our reward for the long hours spent on the court trying to get better in our respective sports. CRICKET, Mr. Khan, is NOT an Olympic sport.

“Heroine hai Sania Mirza (sarcasm), Vijender hai, Sushil Kumar hai, CRICKET MEIN TOH HAI HI,” those were your words. And Vijender Singh turned pro last year, Mr. Khan; whether he can compete at the Olympic Games this summer or not, will be clear this June.

Your 100 days to Rio message: “Kuch na kuch leke aao yaar” (Please bring something at least friends). I fail to understand what does this even mean?

It would have been great if you had said, “My friends (yaar), do your best, results will follow, the entire nation is with you, including myself. Jai Hind.” 

The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

This is what the people of INDIA need to learn.

Yours lovingly,

A former Olympian & a proud Indian.

Neha Aggarwal was the only female table tennis player to represent the country in 2008 Olympic Games. As a professional athlete, Neha represented India for over 13 years traveling more than 40 countries. Currently, she is a full-time graduate student of Sports Management at Columbia University, New York. Neha is a passionate proponent of Sports & Women Empowerment in India and has been a speaker at TEDx. The letter was originally posted on her blog.
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