India's Hockey Triumph: Naveen Patnaik and Odisha Govt played a crucial part

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Largest Hockey Stadium in India to be in Rourkela I Photo: ANI

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik hailed the Indian hockey teams for reaching the semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics. Even though the men's team crashed out 5-2 in the semis against Belgium, we should not forget the fact that it was the first semi-final India played in 49 years. The women's team also beat Australia 1-0 to reach the semi-final for the first time in history.

Meanwhile, social media was showering praises on Naveen Patnaik and the Odisha government for being the sponsors of both male and female hockey teams since 2018. Naveen Patnaik also wasted no time in praising the teams following their triumph in Tokyo. However, it is not a surprise that the chief minister and his Odisha Govt deserve all applause for the effort they took in the resurrection of hockey in India. Recognizing his role in the development of hockey in the state, International Hockey Federation has even presented him with the FIH president’s award in 2019.

As a hockey fan, Naveen Patnaik played a key role in reviving the sport in the country. In the last decade, the state had put significant effort into revamping the sporting system in the state. Hosting major events and building several mini stadiums across the state, Naveen Patnaik brandished hope in the eyes of young athletes, to develop and prosper. For improving their responsibility towards Hockey, Odisha hosted the Champions Trophy Hockey Tournament in 2014 and World Cup Men’s Hockey Tournament held at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar in 2014. In 2019, Odisha also hosted FIH Men’s Series Finals, Olympic Hockey Qualifiers, and even managed the FIH Pro League. Just before the pandemic, Odisha dared to organize the first-ever Khelo India University games in which more than 4000 athletes from 176 universities took part in numerous events.

Moreover, India’s largest hockey stadium is currently under construction in Rourkela, situated in the Sundargarh district of Odisha. This stadium on completion will host the World Cup Hockey in 2023 along with Bhubaneshwar. Several infrastructure developments are also underway in different parts of the same district, which produces majority of India’s top hockey stars.

Largest Hockey Stadium in India to be in Rourkela
Laregst Hockey Stadium in India to be in Rourkela

Since the beginning of 70s and 80s, the prominence of cricket and the downfall of hockey in both national and international stages had severely affected the development of sports in the country. Like when Sahara refused to continue as the sponsors for the Indian hockey teams in 2018, the government of Odisha signed a ₹100 crore deal to sponsor the men’s and women’s hockey teams over the next 5 years. This was a lifeline for hockey in the country.

The growth of upcoming talents from Odisha to hockey in recent years is also a sign of how well the sport was received in the state. The five-year deal signed back in 2018 will run until 2023. However, as it stands, the name ‘Odisha’ will continue to feature on the jersey of India for a longer period of time.

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