NEW DELHI: Former India cricket captain Sunil Gavaskar today said there was nothing wrong with IOA appointing Salman Khan as the Indian Olympic contingent's goodwill ambassador and cited the example of how IPL "benefitted" through its association with Bollywood stars.
"Why not a known face who is not really a part of that particular profession. If he can bring a lot more awareness to that particular profession then why not? I don't see anything wrong in it," Gavaskar said.
"How has IPL been benefitted by having Bollywood stars in it? It has helped considerably in bringing the crowd to the stadium. Eventually, it's mainly because of the kind of cricket being played that will decide the fate of that edition of the IPL but having Shah Rukh (Khan), Preity (Zinta) in the ground, a lot of people come to see them, so that's a plus," he was quoted as saying by 'NDTV'.
Salman's appointment as the goodwill ambassador yesterday triggered a furore that left the sports fraternity divided with the likes of star wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt and sprint legend Milkha Singh questioning the move, while Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and other athletes supported the decision.
Asked why do sportspersons need bollywood stars to promote them, the legendary batsman said: "Well you tell me a sportsperson who is well known than Salman Khan all over the country or may be outside the country. I don't think so. May be just a couple of them. Olympics sports are played in a lot of countries where the Indian sports personalities may not be well known at all but Indian films reach all over the world."
Despite the controversy, the IOA stood firm on its decision to name Salman and said it would rope in more icons from music and cricket to motivate the Rio-bound athletes.
However, another India cricketer Gautam Gambhir was against the move.
"There is no shortage of real sportspersons in the country. People have done massive things in this country. I would have been happier had Abhinav Bindra or someone else being made the goodwill ambassador," Gambhir said.
"For me, personally, Bindra would have been the ideal choice as he is India's lone individual gold medallist."
Gambhir took a dig at Salim Khan for saying that Milkha Singh came back from oblivion due to the biopic 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag'.
"I heard someone saying sportsmen need publicity or sportsmen need Bollywood, but sportspersons do not need Bollywood or film industry for publicity, it is the other way round.
"Movies made on sportspersons do not give them any excitement. They do the job for their country because that's their passion and they want to do something for the country, said the out-of-favour India opener, who is currently leading Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League.