Constructing a new stadium during the Covid-affected period was the biggest challenge for the Odisha Government while trying to live up to its promise of hosting the 2023 men’s hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela.
Odisha Sports Minister Tusharkanti Behera took pride in the fact that the 20000-capacity Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium, constructed at a cost of about Rs 260 crore in Rourkela, was built in time.
“We had thought of renovating the existing stadium (in Rourkela). When we did not get support from the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), the Chief Minister (Naveen Patnaik) decided that we would construct our own stadium. It was a race against time. We had a target of completing it in 12 months, but we did it in 15 months,” said Behera.
“We got the FIH certification after holding India-South Korea (friendly) matches on December 24, 25 and 26. Now the target is to do better than the benchmark we had set four years ago (in the previous edition in Bhubaneswar).”
Sports secretary R.Vineel Krishna threw more light. “There were serious problems in terms of the Covid waves, adverse weather conditions, global supply chain disruption etc. However, the State Government was determined to ensure the completion of the stadium,” said Krishna.
“Initially, the plan for Rourkela was to host two-three matches only as there were constraints of hotel accommodation for more teams. However, the Chief Minister was very particular that we should ensure more matches in Rourkela. When we were designing the stadium also, the Chief Minister said that the maximum number of people should be able to watch the matches considering the craze for hockey in that area. That’s how the plan for the largest seated capacity stadium started.
“The different waves of Covid definitely impacted the progress of the project. At the earliest opportunity, we vaccinated the workforce and made sure they are well taken care of in case of Covid. The main problem was global logistics disruption due to Covid. It seriously affected delivery of various supply items which further added to the delays… Probably, this is the first stadium which is directly hosting the World Cup without conducting a single international match.”
The State Government built 225 rooms with five-star facilities in the Steel City to accommodate players and officials and signed an MoU with the Taj Group for hospitality.
“We were to upgrade the existing building in Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT) campus. However, it was found that there will be structural capacity issues. So, in January 2022, it was decided to construct a new facility. The World Cup Village with 225 rooms was built within nine months (construction started in late March). It’s a record that a star facility was built in such a short time.”
The Rourkela airport is already functional and some extra flights from Jharsuguda will facilitate better connectivity.
Apart from promoting tourism through the mega event, the state has a legacy plan.
“We have made a high performance centre at the Kalinga Stadium in partnership with Tata. Besides, we want to establish another academy there (in Rourkela) so that kids from Sundargarh and its bordering areas in neighbouring states will get the facility,” said Behera.
“The stadium in Rourkela is going to inspire thousands of hockey players. Twenty-one new training centres with synthetic turfs are established to promote hockey at the grassroots level. Rourkela alone will have five hockey turfs. No other city in India can boast of such hockey infrastructure,” said Krishna.
“Rourkela is the host city for the Pro League matches with Australia and Germany in March. We will continue to support Hockey India in hosting national and international events.”
Behera spoke about the state’s bigger vision. “We want the effect of hockey to be felt in the coastal districts as well. Our target is for Odisha’s contribution to be significant in World Cup and Olympic teams. We want to produce enough drag-flickers so that more and more players from Odisha can be included in the Indian team,” said Behera.