THE IOA AND THE GOODWILL AMBASSADORS

Source: PTI

Abhinav Bindra is added to the list of goodwill ambassadors for the Indian Olympic team with less than 100 days to go for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Sachin Tendulkar and A.R Rehman have been approached as well to act as the goodwill ambassadors for the same cause.

Bindra’s inclusion was smooth and controversy-free and probably there is a lesson in it for the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) after they faced criticism in wake of roping in Salman Khan as a ‘Goodwill’ ambassador.

Including Bindra seemed like a knee-jerk reaction – a post-mortem effort to restore IOA’s pride after witnessing the mixed opinions when Salman Khan was first announced as the goodwill ambassador.

Like many matters involving IOA, this too could have been well-thought out instead of merely announcing Salman Khan as the goodwill ambassador. Following some of the conversations surrounding this matter – I could not help but notice, the primary matter is surrounding Salman Khan and whether he is likable or not. Next, does he fit the role?

The arguments from either side are justifiable.

Did IOA need this kind of publicity when the opinions surrounding the organisation aren’t that great?

Salman Khan is a big brand. He has inspired many to take up body building, work on fitness; his #BeingHuman continues to help many underprivileged people and these are the brownie points that I could think of at the top of my mind.

And then, if I flip the coin, I see the same Salman Khan involved in a black buck case, the reckless years of the yore, the hit and run fiasco and his fights in public places under the influence of  alcohol.

Is Salman Khan’s role right or wrong? Many have not gone past this question after his announcement was made. Well, I want to get past it for a simple reason, he is a mere human and like all of us, he too is prone for making mistakes repeatedly. One cannot blame him for that. We were made this way.

“Show me a person with a clean record, I will give you the medicine that prevents death.”

The case on Salman Khan rests here.

I am more inclined to talk about the Indian Olympic Association. They have a lot of challenges in front of them to gain popularity and hence the communication strategy could have been well thought out.

Involve Olympians first and foremost and that is one of the best ways to promote sports in any landscape. If Olympic athletes have issues being visible in a country (like India), reach out to other athletes – it is all in the family, no matter what the differences are.

Along with it, having people, in this case Salman Khan (whose movie Sultan is scheduled to release) opens up the untapped market for the IOA. That is a bonus.

You gotta have reflexes in the times of crisis, however reflexes should be a surprise element and not be tested each time we implement any strategy. The current situation IOA finds is an indicator of how disconnected the organisation is when it comes to understanding their key stakeholders.

As a common Indian, this is what I wish to convey to our Olympic Association – “We support our athletes in times of joy and defeat. However, we would appreciate if more steps were taken to ensure Olympic movement in India is promoted for four years in the lead up to the Games and not when curtains are about to open. Be genuine, as there are many who are willing to help the Indian sports. Be the backbone for the Indian Olympic movement in its literal sense and if your back is hurting, remember – it can be healed and strengthened only if you are willing to make that effort.”

I am not concerned about the publicity leading up to the games – the media will cover the games irrespective of who the ambassadors are. The media these days have a lot of space to cover stories and report news. They wouldn’t miss the Olympic angle.

The question I wish to ask, what would IOA do post Rio Olympics?

I sincerely hope,  IOA does not wait for another set of ‘goodwill’ ambassadors in 2020 to publicise the Olympic movement in India.

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