August 29th is Rashtriya Khel Divas or National Sports Day in India. It is also the birthday of Major Dhyan Chand Singh, the Indian hockey player who put India on world hockey map and won gold for the country during the Olympics three times: in 1928, 1932 and 1936. In his career that lasted till 1948, he scored over 400 goals. Nicknamed a ‘magician’ of hockey, the athlete was a major figure in the 1920s-1930s. It is said that Adolf Hitler offered him a significant compensation to play for Germany, but he was a patriot of India.
This holiday is an excellent occasion to see many sports competitions and activities at Indira Gandhi National Stadium. It is also when the President of India gives out sports awards. In particular, the Dronacharya Award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, and the Arjuna Award. The Prime Minister and other officials also pay tribute to Major Dhyan Chand Singh. People gather around one of the Dhyan Chand statues all over the country and bring him flowers. The biggest celebrations take place during the Summer Olympics. People watch the Olympics on TV and cheer with much passion. Friends and families gather in large groups to cheer for Indian athletes and remember the greatest field hockey player of the past.