From witnessing the fervent Jagannath Yatra to seeing zealous Hockey fans cheer for their favourite players, Odisha is a land of exciting spectacles. Always on the itinerary of travellers, what with its verdant forests, tribal culture, scintillating beaches and majestic temples, Odisha is now sought for a different reason. Bhubaneshwar became ‘the sports capital of India’, when the Indian Hockey Federation president, Narinder Batra announced it in September in these many words.
To feel the sports fever gripping the state, many have travelled to see the 2014 Champions Trophy, 2017 Asian Athletics Championship, and the 2017 Hockey World League Final play out in front of their eyes. This is because the Odisha government is markedly throwing its weight behind athletics, hockey, weightlifting, badminton, football and archery to foster world-class talent in the coming years.
What makes Odiyas wired-up is a host of initiatives that are letting athletes find their turf in the form of financial aid for advanced overseas training and participation, coaching from world-renowned athletes, annual talent searches, and a dedicated sports hostel for 10 to 14-year-olds across the state. The indigenous population have also developed a spirit of play with a one-of-a-kind tribal sport meet in 2017.
Though the Kalinga Stadium echoes with manic energy, the Kalinga Sports Complex is the fount from where the rising sports talent — such as sprinter Dutee Chand, hockey player Dipsan Tirkey, and weightlifter Jhili Dalabehera — are coming. This is where one of India’s best local hockey team, Kalinga Lancers, trains. Besides the Kalinga complex’s athletics stadium, tennis court, swimming pool, shooting range, volleyball and basketball courts, an international standard 8-lane synthetic athletics track, a sports hostel, gymnasium and a blue hockey turf are facilities to spot.
From the Konark Wheel to the hockey puck, Odisha has stood for different things at different times. In fact, its love affair with hockey goes back to the start of the 21st century. You can witness small boys and girls carrying a hockey stick on their way to school and even pre-schoolers learning to walk with them. Some tribal communities were known to play the sport with bamboo sticks and a fruit tied in a cloth as ball.
It was only natural that Odisha becomes the first state to support national hockey teams as a principal sponsor for the next 5 years. As the host of the Men’s Hockey World League Final and Men’s Hockey World Cup, another chapter in the history of sports is under way.
With Shah Rukh Khan, AR Rahman, Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit part of the Hockey World Cup celebrations, Odisha is on its way to playing the perfect host. To explore sports in Odisha, click here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Odisha Tourism and not by the Scroll editorial team.