Edelweiss Group to sponsor Indian contingent at Rio Olympics

IOA also announced Bollywood superstar Salman Khan as the goodwill ambassador of the Indian contingent — an unprecedented appointment in the run-up to the quadrennial extravaganza.

Actor Salman Khan (centre) poses with M. C. Mary Kom, Sardar Singh, Ritu Rani, Apurvi Chandela and Manika Batra in New Delhi on Saturday.   -  PTI

In its long term goal towards being financially independent and be able to support the athletes better, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has signed Bollywood star Salman Khan as its Goodwill ambassador for the Indian contingent bound for the Rio Olympics.

The IOA would also attempt to leverage Salman Khan’s mass appeal to drive the national campaign to cheer the Indian squad to deliver its best results in the Rio Games. As all the assembled athletes at the IOA Bhawan on Saturday, from Mary Kom, Sardar Singh, Apurvi Chandela, Ritu Rani to Manika Batra observed, about a youth icon like Salman Khan being an inspiration for Indian sports, the Bollywood star observed that the imbalance of viewership for other sports as compared to cricket, could be corrected to a great extent.

"If we do not watch other sports, it is our fault. I am trying to go to Rio. Even if I go or not, we will do whatever we can on the digital platform," said Salman Khan, as he sincerely answered all the questions of the media, underplaying his own sporting ability as a "jack of all, and master of none".

He had no hesitation in saying that tennis ace Sania Mirza was his heroine of Indian sports and that he followed the heroics of boxer Vijender Singh and wrestler Sushil Kumar. Asked for his message to the Indian contingent, Salman shot back promptly, "Kuch na kuch lekhe aao yaar" (bring something ). Applauding the effort of gymnast Dipa Karmakar in qualifying for the Olympics, Salman Khan said that if a girl from Tripura could achieve so much with so little, "we can go to the next level, if we have all the facilities and coaching by right people".

Salman Khan doubled up as an interviewer and asked Mary Kom what she would do for the country, or at least for sports, as a Member of Parliament of Rajya Sabha. Five time World champion and Olympic medallist Mary Kom said that it was a great honour for her to be nominated for Rajya Sabha and assured that she would do her best for all athletes and not just boxing. "At the moment I am focused on gaining qualification for the Olympics. The World Championship is in May," Mary pointed out.

The secretary general of the IOA, Rajeev Mehta, said that 75 athletes had already qualified and many more were expected to qualify for the Rio Olympics. "We will win maximum medals this time," he remarked, as he thanked the sponsors for the faith and support.

The principal sponsor of the IOA for the Rio Games, Edelweiss, already associated with a number of leading athletes, announced a life insurance package of Rs. 1 crore for each of the Rio bound Indian athlete. It was also announced that Li-Ning would be the apparel partner.

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