The security arrangement for the Hockey World Cup was foolproof without being intimidating. Very rarely you could spot a khaki-clad policeman in the stands.
According to a senior official, the government machinery, learning from their experience at the Asian Athletics Championships at the Kalinga Stadium in 2017, decided to minimise the presence and interference of police and make the experience enjoyable for the spectators. Cops were picked carefully and were put through an orientation programme to handle the whole tournament patiently. They were polite yet firm with their request to cooperate with security procedures.
The two huge fan parks set up inside the Kalinga Stadium provided never before experience to the fans. There were stalls selling merchandise, commemorative postage stamps, food (including one selling items made of millet), hockey equipment, sports clothing and handicrafts and handlooms from Odisha.
Small hockey pitches with goal posts attracted lots of people, who were eager to test their skills and win prizes. In another corner, a video game on a big screen tempted fans to ride bicycles to reach the Hockey World Cup on the screen and take home some goodies.
Interactive programmes and fun games attracted people to a big stage, while matches on a giant screen provided the thrill of the stadium every evening.
A few kilometers away, Fest, another initiative, collaging numerous food stalls and live music shows, was a perfect complement to the whole experience.
Congregation of sports stars
A galaxy of stars descended in Bhubaneswar for the World Cup. India’s hockey greats — including members of the 1975 World Cup winning squad led by their captain Ajitpal Singh and others such as V. Baskaran, Colonel Balbir Singh, M. M. Somaya, Merwyn Fernandes, Joaquim Carvalho, A. B Subbaiah, Ashish Ballal, Dhanraj Pillay, Mohammed Riaz, Viren Rasquinha, Jugraj Singh and Sardar Singh — made the Odisha capital their home for a few days and met for a star-studded lunch.
Needless to say, the event also had some local stars in Dilip Tirkey, Lazrus Barla and Prabodh Tirkey.
Great players from abroad — including former Dutch captain Stephan Veen, Floris Jan Bovelander, Ric Charlesworth, Glenn Turner, Grant Mitton (whose son Trent was a member of the Australian squad), four-time Olympian Avtar Singh Sohal, Avtar Singh Bhurji and Pakistan great Shahbaz Ahmed — also graced the occasion.
The Odisha Government invited other prominent sportspersons, such as Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag, Anju Bobby George, Leander Paes and Gagan Narang, as guests for different matches of the World Cup.
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