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Odisha Coming Up As A Top Sporting Hub Of The Country

| Updated: December 25, 2023 12:47

Odisha is going all out to become India’s premier sporting hub.

Former Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said, “We start here in Odisha where the quality of infrastructure is great,” while inaugurating the AIFF-Fifa Talent Academy in Bhubaneswar last month.

The recently started Sports Science Centre (SSC) at the Kalinga Sports Complex in Bhubaneswar has the latest equipment and technology to identify, train and rehabilitate athletes. “I wish I had the chance during my career to access the technology and expertise available here,” said Abhinav Bindra, the 2008 Olympic gold-medallist who partnered the Odisha government to set up the complex.

The postural, functional and gait labs at SSC can analyse every movement of an athlete and customise the training regimen. There’s an altitude training chamber, a mind lab for rehabilitation that replaces ice baths with cryotherapy in a minus 140-degree nitrogen chamber. The most wonderful machine is the dream pod that deprives the body of all senses to enhance recovery. The SSC also has a para-athlete performance lab to further inclusivity in sport.

Facilities like the football stadium in Bhubaneswar and the newly opened Sports Science Centre at the city’s Kalinga Sports Complex, which has modern equipment like the dream pod mark Odisha’s emergence as a major sports destination.

Odisha had already made its mark in hockey when its transformation into an all-sport power started with a crisis almost seven years ago. In 2017, Jharkhand was set to host the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships. But when it couldn’t make the arrangements, the then Union finance minister Arun Jaitley dialled Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik to step in as the host. Odisha had never hosted a multisport event like that until then, but it got a 90-day deadline. The Kalinga Stadium, known for hosting hockey events, was readied on a war footing.

The 2017 event was extra special as India finished at the top of the medal tally for the first time.

Hockey remains Odisha’s first love, thanks largely to CM Patnaik’s passion for the sport, said sports and youth services secretary R Vineel Krishna. It has sponsored the national senior and junior men’s and women’s hockey teams since 2018 when Sahara pulled out.

Odisha hosted the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup in 2018, the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in 2019 and the Junior Men’s World Cup in 2021. It was also the venue of two FIH Pro League tournaments, in 2021 and 2022. This year, Odisha completed the largest hockey stadium in India – the 20,000-plus seater Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela.

Bhubaneswar hosted the 2018 Asia Rugby Sevens U18 Girls’ Championship, and now Odisha has a three-year deal to sponsor the Indian women’s rugby sevens teams that have several members from the state.

The city has also hosted several international football ties of the Indian national team, as well as the rescheduled Fifa U17 Women’s World Cup last year.

Odisha is building these facilities in partnership with “like-minded” corporates, sports federations, eminent sportspersons and sports organisations even though it has a generous sports budget of Rs 1,217 crore.

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