At a time when coronavirus brought the world to its knees in 2020, the sportsmanship spirit of the Odisha government and its players drew everyone’s attention. Despite the pandemic, the Odisha government did not shy to announce big-ticket decisions to promote sports. One of them is to construct the country’s largest hockey stadium in Rourkela. The Odisha Government also signed an agreement with the Indian Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to sponsor the Indian national rugby teams for the next three years till 2023 and facilitate high-performance training and conditioning of the players.
The Bridge spoke to Mr. Vishal Kumar Dev, IAS, Principal Secretary, Sports, and Youth Services and Tourism, Government of Odisha who spoke about their journey through the year 2020 and the road ahead with the projects that are in the pipeline. "The lockdown gave us the opportunity to go back to our drawing board and rethink and reaccess the strategy for the way forward," says Dev.
Odisha was supposed to host several events in 2020 including India's football matches against Qatar, the Under-17 Women's Football World Cup, which all got postponed. The sports hostels in the state had to be shut. However, things progressed smoothly while venturing into the online space for training and learning. "We came up with restructing plans of all the 16 hostels in the state vis-a-vis to the sport and discipline. Each sports will have different levels, which would be segregated so that each level gets proper attention. We have mapped the infrastructure of our programs, from the grassroots, to block and district levels, and finally to state level" says Dev.
At Gram Panchayat level, over 8,000 rural playgrounds have been set up, it is followed by 340 mini stadiums at the block level and 150 stadiums in local bodies. At the district level, integrated sporting facilities are also being set up, comprising athletic tracks, football grunds, cricket grounds, badminton courts, basketball court and etc. The Kalinga Stadium has also been converted to the Kalinga Sports City.
Besides, the largest stadium in Rourkela, plenty of hockey infrastructural projects have been taken up by the government. Odisha was the first state in India to open sports facilities following the lockdown for elite athletes of the country.
"The vision of the Odisha chief minister is to make the state the leading destination for sports in the country. We are trying to convert his vision into reality. Since the last five years, we have seen plelnty of development and positivity. People have more engagements in sports in Odisha and it is not only limited to hockey," says Dev.
"Going forward, we'll have a specific plan regarding developmental activities like coach education, refereeing, talent identification, etc. We are going to develop the National Centres of Excellences for youth teams in the state. That is where we are now going to focus a lot and hopefully, with 2021 ushering in the hope, it'll be much better going forward" concludes Dev.
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