The Centre on Friday renamed the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the country’s highest sporting honour, after hockey legend Dhyan Chand.
Announcing the decision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had been receiving requests from people across the country to rename the award. “Respecting their sentiment, the Khel Ratna Award will hereby be called the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award,” he tweeted.
“Major Dhyan Chand was among India’s foremost sportspersons who brought honour and pride for India,” Modi added. “It is fitting that our nation’s highest sporting honour will be named after him.”
With this, there are now two sporting awards named after the hockey legend. The “Dhyan Chand Award for Life-time Achievement in Sports and Games” was introduced in 2016. It honours Indians who have contributed to sports by their performance and continue to contribute to promotion of sports even after their retirement from active sporting career.
The move came as Indians celebrated the performance of India’s hockey teams at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The women’s team hockey lost 3-4 to Great Britain in a match for the bronze medal on Friday, but won wide praise for its performance.
“We are feeling so disappointed because we were so close,” team captain Rani Rampal told PTI. “And we were 2-0 down and then we equalised and we were 3-2 up. I don’t know what to say, but yeah it hurts a lot because we couldn’t win the bronze medal.”
Rampal added that she was proud of her team. “Playing in the Olympic Games and finishing top four is not easy,” she said. “We came a long way. I think now we were closer, but sometimes close is not good enough.
Modi praised both the teams for their performance. “The exceptional performance of the men’s and women’s hockey team has captured the imagination of our entire nation,” he tweeted on Friday. “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.”
Meanwhile, social media users took the opportunity to point out that newly-refurbished cricket stadium in Motera in Ahmedabad was renamed the Narendra Modi Stadium in February.
Several users demanded that the stadium’s name should also be changed.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh also took a dig at Modi. “I was even hoping that they would rename it Narendra Modi, as they did with Sardar Patel Stadium,” he said, according to ANI.
Meanwhile, responding to a tweet by Modi on the men’s hockey team goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor sought to make a political point on Friday.
“Spectacular performance throughout the tournament and even in the last few seconds,” Modi had tweeted about Sreejesh on Thursday.
In response, Tharoor tweeted: “The Prime Minister’s praise for PR Sreejesh has gladdened the heart of every Keralite. It’s a reminder that he who protects the country’s interests from attack and shields it from vulnerabilities is as important as he who takes the offensive and scores goals against others.”