Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

The tag of 'sports capital' of the country is increasingly being used for Bhubaneswar: Vishal Dev

Odisha's commissioner-cum-secretary for sports and tourism on hosting the men's Hockey World Cup, the states's love for the game and the long term boost it will provide

Varsha Meghani
Published: Nov 27, 2018 02:22:15 PM IST
Updated: Nov 27, 2018 04:19:11 PM IST

The tag of 'sports capital' of the country is increasingly being used for Bhubaneswar: Vishal DevVishal K. Dev, Commissioner-cum-secretary for sports and tourism, Odisha

Ahead of the men’s Hockey World Cup, Odisha’s sports secretary Vishal K. Dev talks to Forbes India about the planning and preparations that have gone into playing host. Edited excerpts:

Q. India staved off competition from Australia, Belgium, England, Malaysia and New Zealand to bag the rights to host the men’s hockey world cup 2018. Why was Odisha chosen as the host state?
Odisha’s relationship with hockey is old and very strong. The state has been called the ‘cradle of hockey’ for producing some of the finest hockey players in the country, including a few captains. In fact, most of them come from the Sundegah district in Odisha where practically every child eats and breathes hockey. Today we have five girls and two boys from Odisha in the Indian women’s and men’s hockey teams, respectively. We also happen to be sponsors of the senior and junior national teams – for both men and women. No other state has sponsored a national team for any sport. We also happen to be the only state in the country to have gone ahead and purchased a team – the Kalinga Lancers in the Hockey India League - in any of the sporting leagues. All these factors plus our experience in having hosted international sporting events like the Asian Junior Women’s Rugby tournament, the World Hockey League and the Asian Athletics Championship in the past made us favourites to host the world cup.

Q. In terms of infrastructure and amenities, how has the state gone about preparing for the event?
A phenomenal amount of work has been done. To begin with, we spruced up the entire sports complex that houses the Kalinga stadium, where the matches will be played. We’ve widened roads, improved the landscaping and allowed for better mobility and signage within the complex. The stadium capacity has been expanded from 9,000 to 15,000 by adding two more galleries. The turfs are brand new as is the players’ lounge and changing area. In fact, when the FIH team [International Federation of Hockey] team came for an inspection, they said that the changing rooms in the Kalinga stadium were without doubt the best in the world.

We’ve done a lot of work around the city as well because this is a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase the state. We’ve implemented a non-motorised transport system (NMT) and put in place a public bicycle sharing system that will see around 2000 modern bicycles being provided at docking stations across the city. Public places and parks have been spruced and around 100 e-toilets have been set-up. Artists and volunteers were brought in to paint wall murals along a 40km road network in the city.

Moreover, every weekend we will have a contemporary music and dance festival bringing together some of the most renown names in the country such as Farhan Akhtar, Shreya Ghoshal and Shankar Ehsaan and Loy. We’ve also organised an Art Trail and an International Story Festival. Our campaign is ‘Odisha by Day, Hockey by Night’ - the idea is to give visitors an experience of a lifetime.

The tag of 'sports capital' of the country is increasingly being used for Bhubaneswar: Vishal Dev

Q. How many visitors do you expect?
We’re expecting around 10,000-12,000 visitors from abroad, and maybe 30,000-40,000 domestic visitors.

Q. What kind of investments were made? Where did the funds come from?
Our budget for the World Cup was Rs 82.5 crore. The state, as well as private sponsors provided funds.

Q. On a recent visit the president of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) called Bhubaneswar the ‘sports capital’ of the country…
Yes, the tag of 'sports capital' of the country is increasingly being used for Bhubaneswar. We recently signed 11 MoU’s with various brands and sportspersons to give thrust to various sports. For instance, a badminton academy will be set up by Pullela Gopichand and funded by the Dalmia Bharat group, Gagan Narang will set up a shooting academy sponsored by the Aditya Birla group, while athletics is being taken up by Reliance Industries. Similarly, football and swimming are being taken by JSW, and hockey by the Tatas. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s vision is to not only make Bhubaneswar a global destination for sports, but also develop the ecosystem to support talent across disciplines.