Column: From Rourkela To Bhubaneswar Sports Has Taken Big Strides In Odisha

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Our capital city is being hailed as the new sports capital of the country. While that might be slightly over the top there is no denying the fact that Bhubaneswar now has world class infrastructure as far as hockey is concerned. It was accorded the honour of holding Men’s World Cup hockey sometime ago only because it had put in place quality infrastructure and was willing to spend on further improvements.

Apart from hockey, which the state government is patronising in a big way, we are also promoting football, table tennis and badminton. We are now ready to host world class tournaments in these sporting disciplines. The craze for sports and games is visible not only in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, the latter being home to the state’s most prestigious cricket stadium, but almost in every part of Odisha. Sports infrastructure even in districts is being improved.

This is remarkable considering that in my school and college days Rourkela was the biggest sporting centre of the state. The Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP), the biggest public sector employer in Odisha at that time, patronized sports and games in a big way. Cricket and football flourished under the aegis of RSP as it drew talented players from different parts of the country to Rourkela. They became part of the state team. Cricketers like Randhir Singh, who brought Odisha cricket team into limelight, were imports. They came to the steel city because RSP gave them lucrative jobs.

In those days there used to be football tournaments involving teams representing different departments of RSP. We used to visit the Ispat stadium in sector 6 regularly to watch football matches. I watched several Ranji trophy matches featuring Odisha in the stadium that was very close to our school, Ispat Vidyalaya.

In fact, whenever we managed to leave school a bit early we would go to the stadium and engage in fielding practice with Rourkela players most of whom were part of Odisha Ranji team. Club cricket also began in Rourkela much earlier than many other places in the state.

The steel city in those days was really the sports capital of Odisha. It not only hosted major cricket and football tournaments but also organised big athletic meets. Women sportspersons like cyclist Minati Behera made a name for themselves in Rourkela. If I remember correctly she was from my school. Quite a number of kabaddi players who made it to the state team were from Rourkela.

Then Cuttack emerged as the major sporting destination of the state. Bhubaneswar’s arrival on the sporting scene in a big way was a much later development. But the fact that our state capital is today being hailed for its world class sports infrastructure shows that it is ready to compete with the best and the fervour for sports and games is having a trickle-down effect with most of the districts trying to develop their own infrastructure including stadia. It is definitely a good sign for the state and we should be proud of our achievements in this field.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)