The Indian men's hockey team would take its first step towards qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when it faces Russia in its opening game of the FIH Series Finals in Bhubaneswar on Thursday. But even as the squads sweat it out in searing heat and humidity, the Odisha government is working overtime to ensure it lives up to the standards set in the past.
With cyclone Fani in May causing extensive widespread damages across the state, the Kalinga Stadium here was no exception with both the turf and the infrastructure facing the impact. The state sports department has, however, ensured that the tournament would go ahead and has almost completed repairs and renovations.
“The hockey turf had suffered tears in few isolated places. The stadium infrastructure also suffered peripheral and minor damages including broken glass panes, fixtures of flood lights, gallery chairs and facade. The cyclone had uprooted trees, broken towers and high mast light and created a large amount of debris across the complex,” sports director Vineel Krishna told Sportstar .
With just over a month left and despite humanitarian distress taking priority, along with Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, there had been talk of shifting the competition elsewhere. To its credit, the Odisha government has managed to rectify the issues despite all the pressure in record time.
What made it more difficult was the fact that the stadium was used as a base camp for relief activities and shelter for people during Fani, leaving less time for restoration. “Arrangements were made to provide relief. The complex was also a base for air-dropping relief material and a control room for their distribution. Even the control room for restoration of power supply was inside the stadium only. The athletics stadium roof was blown away,” Sports secretary Vishal K. Dev explained.
The efforts are visible. The stands, galleries and dressing rooms are all back in use and the turf has seen the Indian team practice without any serious concerns. “Currently, beautification of the stadium is underway which is also expected to be completed in a couple of days. The Indian team is already training and is satisfied with the infrastructure,” Krishna added.
Even as India steps in as the highest-ranked team and a favourite to win, the team would be hoping to match up to the staff's efforts.
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