Expecting double digits in medals in Rio: IOA chief

New Delhi: Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President N. Ramachandran said on Monday that he expects India to reach double digits in the medals tally at the upcoming Rio Olympics. Ramachandran, who was here for the official send-off ceremony for the Indian contingent, also urged people not to pressurise the athletes by having huge expectations. "I am expecting at least double digits even though can't give you the exact figure," he told reporters on the sidelines of the event which was attended by the IOA's goodwill ambassadors -- Bollywood star Salman Khan and Oscar winning music composer A.R. Rahman. "If you want the athletes to do well, don't put pressure on them. Creating undue pressure only spoils their focus. So let them enjoy and give their best," he added. Ramachandran also said that he wants the IOA to be self-dependent on the lines of the US Olympic Association. "In the next few years, I want to see the IOA to function like the US Olympic Association. In the US, the association doesn't depend on the government for funding. "I don't know if it happens during my tenure or not but I want the IOA to generate its own source of funds without depending on the government. At present the total brand value of IOA is Rs.500 crore," he said. Wishing the athletes luck, the IOA chief said its not always about winning medals. "Its not just winning medals, the very fact that you qualify to such a world event is in itself a huge fact," he remarked. Salman, flanked by Rahman, distributed the kits and wished the athletes the best for the quadrennial extravaganza in Brazil. Addressing the athletes in his witty style, Salman wished them luck and advised them to play without pressure. "Some play under pressure, let them play..whoever can't handle pressure, don't take pressure. Go there, give your best and the rest is in the hands of the Almighty," Salman said in his address. "We met some months back...I was so happy to see you all..but come back as late as you can," he said encouraging the athletes to go for podium finishes in their respective disciplines. But London Olympics bronze medallist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, who had courted controversy by criticising the IOA's decision to appoint Salman as the goodwill ambassador, skipped the event for unknown reasons.  Dutt had said that legendary athletes like P.T. Usha and Milkha Singh should have been considered for the post when the IOA announced Salman as the ambassador in April this year. Rahman, on his part, rendered some lines from his popular number 'Jai Ho' and asked the Indian contingent to show the world how to win medals. "Why am I here? To unify us, the time is right for India to define excellence. We are the youngest nation with 60 per cent of youth and its commendable that more and more young people are taking up sports," he said. "Nothing is impossible if you put your mind and energy to it. Lets show the world how to do it (win medals)," he added before mesmerising the crowd with his lovely piece. Sports Minister Vijay Goel also made a brief appearance towards the end. This is the largest Indian contingent till date, comprising 67 male and 54 women, taking the total number of participants to 121. The event was also attended by IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta, Sports Secretary Rajeev Yadav, IOA treasurer Anil Khanna, SAI DG Injeti Srinivas, Chef de Mission Rakesh Gupta and deputy chef de mission Anandeshwar Pandey, among others.