New Delhi: Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar today accepted IOA's invitation to become the country's goodwill ambassador for the Rio Olympics alongside ace shooter Abhinav Bindra and Bollywood star Salman Khan after the controversial actor's appointment created an uproar.
With Salman's appointment drawing flak from different quarters, including Olympic bronze medal winning wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt and former athlete Milkha Singh, who had said the honour should be given to top sportspersons, the Indian Olympic Association had approached Bindra, Tendulkar and celebrated music composer AR Rehman. Both Bindra and Tendulkar accepted the Indian Olympic Association's invitation.
"Sachin Tendulkar has accepted our request to become goodwill ambassador of Indian contingent at the Olympics. We have received the official communication from him accepting our request," IOA Secretary General Rajiv Mehta told PTI.
"We are very happy to have an iconic sportsperson like Mr Tendulkar on board as goodwill ambassador. We are thankful to him. We hope his association and the association of other goodwill ambassadors will take Indian sport forward," he added.
Tendulkar today wrote a letter to IOA President N Ramachandran and Mehta, confirming his support for the Rio-bound athletes and expressed willingness to meet the Indian contingent before it departs for Brazil.
"It will be my pleasure to meet these world-class athletes before they leave for Rio to learn their experience and preparations. I am also happy to be part of any awareness campaign that can rally the country around our athletes and motivate them, including amplifying their efforts and success on my Twitter and Facebook accounts," Tendulkar said.
Thanking the two IOA officials for the letter, which they had sent to him, dated April 28, Tendulkar wrote: "I have had the privilege and honour of representing our nation for 24 years and I continue to bat for India off the field. The welfare of sportspersons and encouraging them to give their
best is very dear to me.
"I strongly believe that the sportspersons from different parts of the country, pursuing their unique skills, are the true ambassadors of the growing sporting culture in the country. Awareness about their struggles, discipline and single-minded focus will help develop many more world beating champions and encourage passionate following of the Olympics in our country."
Tendulkar also said that he would look forward to receiving details on athletes' progress. "I have mentioned the nature of the role as envisaged by me as I am keen to rally enhanced support for our champion athletes. I look forward to receiving details on your planned initiatives towards this objective. My best wishes to the entire contingent as we look forward to them proudly expressing themselves in Rio," he said.
The IOA Secretary General, meanwhile, said they are yet to get a confirmation from Rehman. "Mr. Rehman is yet to communicate to us but we are hopeful that he will also accept our invitation," Mehta said.
Asked about what specific role the goodwill ambassadors would play, Mehta said: "These iconic sportspersons and celebrities will spread the idea of Olympic movement in every nook and corner of the country, every village, block and city of India.
"They will help in building up a sporting culture in this country. We need a sporting culture if we want to become a sporting country," he added.