Odisha to be sports hub soon

Subhas Panigrahi

Bhubaneswar, ---  For a quite long time , Indians have complained about the lack of facilities  for sports. Absence of quality infrastructure, lack of adequate funding, improper  integration of sports science, failure  to harness raw talents  have all been cited  as reasons  for India's under performance at big events. Come to Odisha  and all of this seems to have been addressed.

If you come to Kalinga stadium compound, it marks  the start of what is now being talked about  by many as the "Odisha model".  " I am from Australia  and have worked across the world but  in no other  country  do you see this level  of infrastructure in one precinct , not  even in Australia", says David John , who's credited  for India's  hockey success in Tokyo and is now the high  performance director in Odisha. The state  could soon become the hub of Indian sport.

The infrastructure is just not restricted to Bhubaneswar. Even Rourkela , which does't  have the best air connectivity , has five synthetic pitches for hockey for which the sport is making so much  progress in the region. The Rourkela's Birsa Munda stadium is an  architectural marvel  and has become  a local landmark. The high performance center (HPC)  and grassroot academies are all working in sync to harness tribal talent from the region. It is no surprise that stars like Jyoti Chhatri and Sunelita Toppo are coming through the ranks and making a mark at the international arena.

" When we started  playing  hockey, we had no access  to facilities, and look at things now. There has been a sea change and it is natural you will see a huge impact", said Dilip Tirkey, a son of the soil and president of Hockey India, who represented the country as Hockey captain for a long time. 

Not only that  infrastructure isn't just restricted to hockey . There are HPCs for shooting, badminton, weightlifting, tennis football and there are integrated with the sports science centers (SSC) on campus , run by the Abhinav Bindra and his team.

Use of GPS technology continues to be rare in India. But in Odisha , it is being used at all age groups, from  sub-junior  to junior and senior. " You can't expose  the athletes to sport science when they are already in the national team . You need to measure their parameters as they grow . Only  then you can objectively  measures fitness and performance", said  Rajiv Seth , former Bengal fast bowler  and the man in charge of  the Hockey  HPC. Using  this technology gives exact details of the fitness levels of every athlete and as a result selection is no longer subjective.

Pullela Gopichand  is in charge of the badminton facility . The athletes  and the corporates are responsible for providing coaches and imparting scientific  training  while the government provides them the right infrastructure .

At the root of every sporting revolution is investment. At the turn of the millennium , Odisha  sports budget  was just Rs 4 crores. It has now reached Rs 1217 crores . This  budget is expected to touch Rs 1500 crores in the near future. Odisha government is sponsorting  the men's and women's hockey teams at the senior and junior levels , it is also offering support to sports like Rugby in which a lot of players  come from the region. 



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