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Odisha's rise as a sports powerhouse serves a successful model for the rest of the country

Odishas rise as a sports powerhouse serves a successful model for the rest of the country

The Bridge Desk

Published: 28 Aug 2019 6:03 AM GMT

Odisha’s accession to becoming the sports powerhouse of the country can be hailed as a successful model for the rest of the states in the country to follow. Over the years, Odisha has hosted the Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy 2014, Asian Athletics Championships 2017, Men’s Hockey World League Finals 2017, Indian Super League 2017-2018, Hero Super Cup 2018-2019, National Open Athletics Championships 2018, Asia Rugby Girls U-18 Rugby 7s Championships 2018, Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018, Indian Super League 2019, AIFF 4-nations Women’s Hero Gold Cup 2019, the recent FIH Series Finals Bhubaneswar 2019 and the 21st Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships.

These events have brought Odisha global recognition and plaudits. The state capital Bhubaneswar is now one of the four shortlisted venues for the FIFA U -17 Women’s World Cup 2020. The state also set an unprecedented benchmark for others to emulate by sponsoring the National Hockey team, both men and women, for five years, starting 2018.

The beautiful Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar which hosted the Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2019
The beautiful Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar which hosted the Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2019

The state, which is hailed as the ‘cradle of hockey, has further bolstered its portfolio by adding High Performance Centres (HPC) for various sports. After organising a successful Hockey Men’s World Cup, the state has signed seven partnerships with the country’s distinguished industrialists and sportspersons to set up HPC in the state which will benefit the sportspersons of not just Odisha but the country.

Odisha has joined forces with JSW Sports and Bengaluru FC for setting up HPCs for football, with TENVIC Sports & Ahluwalia Group for the weightlifting HPC, which aims to provide weightlifters of the state a proper training arena to prepare for international events and with Aditya Birla Group and Gagan Narang’s Gun for Glory for shooting while another pact with JSW sports for a High-Performance Centre in the state to provide international standard coaching to the swimming talents of the state.

Odisha has also partnered Tata Steel Ltd & Tata Trusts to set up a HPC for producing more international hockey players from the state, which was recently inaugurated and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with RIL Foundation for the High Performance Athletics Centre which will provide a platform for the local talents to train under renowned experts and hone their skill for international events.

Odisha has further bolstered its portfolio by adding High Performance Centres (HPC) for various sports

Another MoU with Xavier Emlyon for establishing a Centre for Excellence of Sports Management in the state and Dalmia Cement and Pullela Gopichand Badminton Foundation are setting up a HPCs for badminton. Another HPC which is already up and running is the one done in partnership with Rungta Mines and Abhinav Futuristics for Advanced Medical Rehabilitation Centre.

As to why so much focus on HPC’s, Mr. R. Vineel Krishna, a 2005 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who serves as Director-cum-Additional Secretary, Department of Sports and Youth Services, Government of Odisha said:

“These platforms, besides promoting a culture of sports in the state, inspire budding and aspiring talents to pursue their dreams and achieve their sporting goals. Collectively, we have created an ecosystem that will enrich our athletes and further our sporting endeavours. We have many event and infrastructure projects underway, which will further strengthen our position as the Sports Capital of the country.

“We are aware, besides hosting big events, we need to build the grassroots and build a pipeline from grassroots to HPC. For example - Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance (ABTP) is a part of the seven-to-eight initiatives we have taken. It is a unique effort where we have tried to bring in a sportsperson or a management agency and a corporate because many corporates want to be involved in sport but don’t know how to do it. Whereas, the government has the advantage of creating infrastructure. We are not good at running coaching programmes. We are trying to get all these three factors together.”

The state strives to find promising young athletes, train them efficiently, and help them build their skills by accumulating a wealth of experience in domestic competitions.

Mr. Krishna adds, "Further, with the evolution of a social-media-savvy world, it is also essential to align our social media campaigns with our sports initiatives to garner higher traction and engagement with fans and followers and the overall sporting community. Combining creativity with content across our platform have enabled our athletes and events to reach a wider audience across the globe."

The focus of the HPCs lies in scouting and nurturing athletes from within the state and grooming them

Odisha Sports boasts of one of the most digitally forward government sports department in the country. It has 63.3k followers on Twitter and 476k on Facebook.

Vineel Krishna further tells us about the steps being taken to promote these HPCs on a national level so that athletes can come over to Odisha and train. He says:

Weightlifting, Athletics, Badminton, Football development, Sports management and Hockey HPCs have been launched this year. Currently, our focus lies in scouting and nurturing athletes from within the state and grooming them over the years to become national and international players. For this, we have associated with different sports bodies/ associations and conducting extensive scouting programmess across the state. (Naval Hockey Talent Academy, however, is an exception; it has 18 Odia cadets from the state and rest seven are from other states.)

In the near future, we plan to expand and develop some of the HPCs to a grander facility in the outskirts of the city, that can house larger talent pools across disciplines and then we would be in a position to tap national athletes."

As for why such a big focus on sports and other upcoming sporting events in the state, he adds: “Odisha has produced eminent sports personalities; Dilip Tirkey, Dutee Chand, Biren Lakra, Amit Rohidas, Sumitra Nayak, Jhili Dalabehera who have won laurels for the country. Recently, our para-athlete Pramod Bhagat who has been conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award and Biju Patnaik Sports award for his outstanding performance in Badminton. It is a growing hub for sports with a rich resource of athletes. Hence, sports is given high priority status. We believe that investment in sports is an investment in youth, which translates into investment in the community and future."

We are not leaving any stones unturned to promote sporting culture, by means of setting up HPCs, hosting marquee events, setting up sports complex levels at district levels. We are equipping our athletes at grassroots levels through multiple infrastructure development."

He adds, "We will be hosting the hockey qualifier matches for Tokyo 2020 in November this year. We are also optimistic about hosting the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup and Asian Rowing Championship in the near future.”

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