Virtual sports awards will not be the same

Virtual sports awards will not be the same

Rani Rampal, Indian hockey captain

On the eve of National Sports Day and sports awards presentation, Indian hockey captain Rani Rampal posted a video of herself dribbling and exhorting youngsters to take up the sport.

For those not familiar, August 29 is the birth date of hockey legend Dhyan Chand. At a time when the IPL is in news for all reasons — right and wrong — the virtual awards presentation on Saturday is a unique first.

The awards this year have been mired in deep controversy what with five Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratnas chosen among a total of 74 in seven categories. In all, 65 winners will be attending the awards function from 11 different cities with some notable absentees, which includes Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma. A couple of  winners have been left out of the virtual function after testing positive for COVID-19.

President Ram Nath Kovind will be live from the majestic Rashtrapati Bhawan at the awards presentation.

There is a lot of history and emotions attached with these awards, though in recent years, there has been some controversy or the other. Yet, to see Rani Rampal post the dribble video brought back good memories of how sport was throbbing before COVID-19.

Usually in the morning, the sports minister visits the National Stadium in the Capital, now called the Dhyan Chand National Stadium. This venue has hosted many historic sporting events in the past, though hockey is no longer part of it because of a virtual take-over of the premises by other government agencies.

 A majestic statue of Dhyan Chand is there the moment you enter the  main gate. Other than the mandatory function on August 29 each year, Dhyan Chand remains alone there, as this spot has not been publicised as much as it should have been.

To be sure, there is a lot of fanfare around these award every year, though a virtual awards ceremony will not be the same. Weeks are spent in preparation for the function at the Ashoka Hall where award winners, past winners and other sports celebrities assemble for a crisp function.

It used to be a lifetime opportunity for their athletes as they would bring their family and near ones. Photo ops outside the Rashtrapati Bhawan were a craze, as much as the lavish high tea spread inside.

All that will be missed this  time.

For those who have attended the National Sports Awards function in the past, memories are beautiful, Be it the athletes or the coaches and others invited, the assembly of sporting icons was indeed special.

A virtual function on Saturday will not be the same as physically receiving the trophy and a scroll is nostalgic. This time, the athletes have been given the formal blazer and will be attending the event from 11 cities in India.

On Friday, a couple of athletes, Dutee Chand included, had posted photos of them preparing for the awards ceremony. There is nothing like a real, throbbing function, full of high energy. Sadly, COVID-19 does not allow such activity to take place any longer.

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