Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday announced that the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award will now be known as the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, “respecting the sentiments of citizens across the country”. The Khel Ratna award is the highest sporting honour in 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! Jai Hind!” Prime Minister Modi tweeted.
The Khel Ratna award was instituted in 1991-1992 and the first recepient was Chess legend Viswanathan Anand. Among the other winners were Leander Paes, Sachin Tendulkar, Dhanraj Pillay, Pullela Gopichand, Abhinav Bindra, Anju Bobby George, Mary Kom and Rani Rampal in 2020.
The now renamed Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award comes with a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh.
Known as The Wizard, Major Dhyan Chand, a field hockey player, played international hockey from 1926 to 1949, scroing over 400 goals in his career. Dhyan Chand, born in Allahabad, was part of the Olympic team that won gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936.
Apart from the Khel Ratna award, the country’s highest award for lifetime achievement in sports is known as the Dhyan Chand Award. It was instituted in 2002. The National Stadium in New Delhi was also renamed as the Dhyan Chand National Stadium in 2002.