The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the highest sporting honour of India, has been renamed Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced today. The renaming recognises the ultimate hockey hero and legend of the sport, Dhyan Chand.
The Prime Minister said the move was based on the numerous requests he received from across the nation.
"I have been getting many requests from citizens across India to name the Khel Ratna Award after Major Dhyan Chand. I thank them for their views.
"Respecting their sentiment, the Khel Ratna Award will hereby be called the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award!" tweeted the Prime Minister with #JaiHind.
I have been getting many requests from citizens across India to name the Khel Ratna Award after Major Dhyan Chand. I thank them for their views.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 6, 2021
Respecting their sentiment, the Khel Ratna Award will hereby be called the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award!
Jai Hind! pic.twitter.com/zbStlMNHdq
The change comes at a time India's hockey teams have captivated the imagination of the nation with their performance at the Toyko Olympics.
The women's hockey team today narrowly missed out on a bronze medal drawing curtains on its spirited show at the Olympics. Yesterday, the men's hockey team won an Olympic bronze after a wait of 41 years.
"The exceptional performance of the Men's and Women's Hockey Team has captured the imagination of our entire nation. There is a renewed interest towards Hockey that is emerging across the length and breadth of India. This is a very positive sign for the coming times," the Prime Minister said in another tweet, just before announcing the new name for the award.
Dhyan Chand, whose birthday is celebrated as National Sports Day, won three Olympic golds for the country.
"Major Dhyan Chand is India's most legendary & loved sporting icons; it is only befitting that India's Highest Sporting Honour be named after him.
"His life and achievements have inspired generations of sportspersons who have achieved glory for India," Sports Minister Anurag Thakur tweeted after the announcement.
Commending the decision, former hockey skipper Ajitpal Singh noted though the recognition came in late, it's better than never.
"It's a welcome move. It's a good decision which the Prime Minister has taken. Sports awards should always be in the name of sportspersons and there is no bigger sportsperson in the country other than Dhyanchand ji. The recognition came late but better late than never," Mr Singh told PTI.
Olympic bronze-winning boxer Vijender Singh said honouring the memory of Dhyan Chand is a good move, but that alone will not be enough.
"Nothing against the move because we all respect Dhyan Chand ji's immense contribution but the government ought to do more than this to support sportspersons. They need facilities at the basic level, unless we can do that, mere renaming of awards won't make much of a difference," the boxer was quoted saying by news agency PTI.
Launched in 1991-92, the award comprises a medallion, a certificate, and a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh. The first recipient of the Khel Ratna was chess legend Viswanathan Anand. Some of the winners in recent years include cricketer Rohit Sharma, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, women's hockey team captain Rani Rampal, among others.