Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

With just over three weeks left for FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, hockey fever has gripped the State. The State government has left no stone unturned in the preparation for the mega event. Beautification drive has reached its last stage with mural paintings adoring the walls in the host cities with hockey themes. Posters have also been put up in rural areas to create hockey craze and passion among people.

However, the Opposition parties in the State slammed the ruling BJP for trying to take advantage of the situation by promoting the brand of BJD and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. They further alleged that BJD is trying to woo young voters by pushing their agenda during the publicity campaign for the mega event.

Opposition parties also raised questions over the government’s intention behind using Naveen’s picture in the posters pasted on the walls for attracting fans towards the game and the mega event.

The grand opening ceremony of the event will be organised at Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on January 1 with Bollywood celebrities like Ranveer Singh, Disha Patani and singer Pritam gracing the occasion. Besides, hockey festivals will be organised in every districts. The World Cup trophy will take a tour at various places across the State. People will watch the inaugural ceremony with big LED screens at various places. The State government has allocated a huge sum of Rs 75 crore for the branding, propaganda and venue management of the event.

However, the Opposition parties have alleged that the ruling party is doing politics with the matter and trying to take political advantage of the situation. As per the Opposition, the BJD is trying to woo young voters to their fold by spending lavishly on the upcoming Hockey World Cup.

“We are thankful to the State government for organising the Hockey World Cup. But on the pretext of organising the event, promoting the brand of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is not acceptable,” said Congress senior leader Suresh Routray.

“The State government is trying to take a political mileage by spending lavishly on the mega event. Had the government spent those resources on the development of Odisha people, the State would have prospered,” said BJP leader Pradeep Purohit.

On the other hand, BJD defended the massive budget allocated for the mega event and the publicity campaign as well.

“The State is organising the World Cup and there is nothing wrong in running the publicity campaign with intensity. It will glorify the State’s honour on a global stage. The criticism of the Opposition parties is not justified,” said BJD senior leader Devi Prasad Mishra.

Meanwhile, fans have been dismayed over the ticket crunch both in offline and online modes. Despite waiting for hours, several fans have to return empty handed as tickets were not available at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar and Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in Rourkela on Tuesday.

Some of the fans have alleged that there is a huge scam both in the online and offline sales as tickets for India match, quarter, semi and final clashes are not available.

“I have been waiting here to purchase tickets from the counter since morning. However, I didn’t get tickets for India matches and all other important encounters. I think these tickets have been reserved for the VIPs and a huge scam is going on,” said a fan in Bhubaneswar.

Meanwhile, an all party meeting has been convened by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on December 22 to have a discussion on the organisation of the World Cup. The State government is expected to disclose all the information related to the mega event.