The state of Odisha in Eastern India is hosting the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup (Jan. 13-29, 2023). Odisha has achieved the remarkable feat of hosting this event for the second time in a row (it also hosted the 2018 edition of the Men’s Hockey World Cup). Odisha — endowed with natural resources and well located geographically – has improved its economic situation in recent years, because of efficient governance — though it still has a long way to go before fulfilling its potential.
Significantly, however, the Eastern Indian state has emerged as an important center for the game of Hockey (several members of the Indian Hockey team are from Rourkela which is part of Sundargarh district, Odisha). Since 2018, Odisha has been the sponsor of the Indian Hockey team. The Odisha government has also roped in former Olympians Dilip Tirkey and Lazarus Barla to mentor the next generation of talent in the state.
While the state has hosted several international events, it was after both the men’s and women’s Indian Hockey team won a bronze medal each in the Tokyo Olympics, 2021, that Odisha’s role in promoting hockey was truly recognized in India and even globally. Not only did the Odisha Chief Minister felicitate both the men’s and women’s hockey teams but he announced that Odisha would continue to support both the teams for a period of 10 years beyond 2023. While commenting on the performance of the Hockey teams, Patnaik had said: “For nearly four decades, the hockey fans have been yearning to see India grab a medal at the Olympics…The way the entire country was glued to the screens to watch the teams’ matches, it is quite evident there is something more to hockey than just sports. In the background of the pandemic, it is remarkable that our teams have worked so hard in spite of all challenges and emerged victorious,”
It would be pertinent to point out that Odisha has also recently doubled its sport budget in 2022. The cost of the Birsa Munda International Hockey stadium, Rourkela — one of the venues for the Hockey World Cup 2023 – has been upgraded significantly and can occupy 20,000 people.
The Eastern Indian state has sought to benefit from the above by seeking to emerge as an important sports destination. In the long run, it seeks to give a fillip to international sports tourism by attracting more international tourists to attend sporting events (there has been a rise of both domestic and international tourists during sporting events). The state has been seeking to emerge as an important tourist destination and in the 2022 budget along with development of sports infrastructure a record amount of Rs. 590 crore was allocated for the tourism department. Odisha has many destinations which may be of interest to tourists, emerging as an important sporting centre will help in increasing awareness about the state and give a fillip to tourism.
Apart from this, the Odisha government — which has been lauded for all his efforts in promoting the game of hockey — has repeatedly sought new ideas and innovation and encouraged the participation of the private sector in giving a boost to sports.
While speaking at an event SPORT IT 2020 (a sports innovation festival), in 2020 the Odisha Chief Minister said:
“With SPORT IT 2020, we want to create an inclusive platform that would not only celebrate sports innovation and entrepreneurship but also involve sports persons, start-ups, high performance centres and students in a significant way”.
In 2022, the Xavier-Emlyon Business School (XEBS) organised the second edition of SPORT IT and a number of start ups and industry experts participated in the virtual event. The theme of the event was ‘sports, tourism and technology’.
The state has also been seeking to give a boost to sports entrepreneurship. XEBS a business school located in Bhubaneswar and a collaboration between Xavier Institute of Management University, Bhubaneswar and Emlyon Business School (France) launched a dual degree in Sports Industry Management in 2021. The dual degree combines an MBA from XIM University Bhubaneswar and an MSc from Emlyon business school. This degree could give a boost to sports innovation in the state and a fillip to sports related entrepreneurship.
Odisha’s increasing focus on hockey will benefit it not just in the context of sports, but also in terms of tourism and could also give a boost to sports entrepreneurship in the Eastern Indian state.
[Photo Pinakpani, via Wikimedia Commons]
Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi based analyst interested in Punjab-Punjab linkages as well as Partition Studies. Maini co-authored ‘Humanity Amidst Insanity: Hope During and After the Indo-Pak Partition’ (New Delhi: UBSPD, 2008) with Tahir Malik and Ali Farooq Malik. He can be reached at [email protected]