National sports awards likely to be delayed this year

The COVID-19 pandemic may force a postponement of the national sports awards ceremony which is held on 29 August every year.

Heptathlete Swapna Barman receiving the Arjuna award from Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, on 29 August, 2019.   -  PTI

The National Sports Awards ceremony this year is likely to be delayed by a month or two due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Sports Ministry official has said. The final decision on the matter, however, will be taken only after receiving guidance from the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The National Sports Awards include the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the Arjuna award, Dronacharya award and the Dhyan Chand award, conferred every year by the President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on 29 August.

The ceremony coincides with the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand.

“We haven’t heard anything from the Rashtrapati Bhavan yet. We are waiting for a communication with regard to the sports awards. So, at this point of time, it is very difficult to say what will happen,” the ministry official told PTI.

“Currently, public gathering is prohibited across the country due to COVID-19 so no functions are being organised at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. In the past also, the awards ceremony has been organised with delays, so in case it cannot be held on 29 August, we can hold it one or two months later. The well-being and safety of all should be the priority right now,” he added.

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The pandemic had last month forced the sports ministry to extend the deadline for submission of online applications for the awards. It also allowed athletes to self-nominate in view of the “difficulties” being faced by them to find recommenders amid the lockdown.

The self nomination has resulted in a huge number of applicants for the awards but the sports ministry is yet to form a committee to select the eventual winners.

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It has been learnt that the ministry is yet to start screening of the applications and a delay is inevitable.

“The sports awards this year will definitely be delayed because screening of applications is a tedious task which is yet to begin,” a ministry source told PTI. “But the awards will definitely be given away. There is no question of denying deserving athletes and coaches their due recognition.”