Liberal Opinion: My Odisha Diary: Tathagatta Satpathy, Odisha Press Club and Hockey

Hockey and Odisha have become synonymous. Since 2018 when Bhubaneswar played host to the 14th World Cup Hockey Tournament at newly constructed iconic Kalinga Stadium hockey has come full circle. It has got its second home in Rourkela in the world’s biggest Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium that has attached to it a 225-room Hockey Village.

This year, when the FIH Hockey World Cup returned to this State of Temples after a gap of little more than four years, it has rightly earned the mandate of becoming one of modern global hockey hubs. Besides Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, and Birsa Munda Stadium in Rourkela, that are venues for the ongoing FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, the State has the Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre. In addition, it has an international Biju Patnaik Hockey Stadium in Rourkela besides 30-odd synthetic surfaces dotting the length and breadth of the State.

Now it is all set to throw open the country’s first indoor athletics stadium in the coming months. It also has  Reliance Foundation  Odisha High Performance Athletics Centre. Also nearing inauguration is an ultra-modern aquatics Centre that will have temperature-controlled swimming pools.
Led by Biju Janata Dal government headed by Naveen Patnaik, the State has also encouraged setting up of High-Performance Centers in shooting through the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Gagan Narang and a new  Centre in badminton, that is nearing inauguration, will be run as Pullela Gopichand Academy.

In the last five to six years, once forlorn, the State has set a benchmark for other States in the country in promoting sports at grassroots level as well as for training athletes for the highest level of sporting competitions, including Olympic Games and World Cups.

“The State has spent more money on promoting sports than ameliorating the lot of  poverty-stricken populaces,” commented an autorickshaw driver, maintaining that “more than Rs 2500 crore has been spent on hockey (sports) in five years. He is a good and well-meaning Chief Minister. But the same cannot be said about people around him. Aam aadmi  adores  him,” he said without getting himself identified.

Beyond hockey and other sports, the State has been given a face lift. “Our only worry is that after the sporting events, will the authorities be able to maintain and sustain the civic and sports infrastructure they have raised in recent years,” commented Feroze Ansari, an Uber driver.

*It is strange that while the hockey world is generally appreciative of facilities being created in Odisha, not many journalists from the remaining participating nations have come here for the World Cup. Only a few groups of journalists from Belgium, the Netherlands, Malaysia and England – less than 20 in total – have come for this mega hockey event.

*Limited participation of overseas journalists notwithstanding, Odisha also boasts of a congenial meeting Centre for scribes. The Odisha Press Club, located close to the Bhubaneswar Railway Station, has former four-time MP Tathagata Satpathy as its Chairman. He was once chief whip of BJD in Lok Sabha. He runs a couple of newspapers, including Odisha Post. He makes it a point to be at the Club every evening. His mother, Nandini Satpathy, though initially leftist in student politics, was a confidant of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, and served as Chief Minister of Odisha.a

The Club is very well maintained and has 500-odd members, including businessmen and captains of industry, besides newspaper owners, journalists and public relation executives.

(Prabhjot Singh is a veteran journalist with over three decades of experience of 14 years with Reuters News and 30 years with The Tribune Group, covering a wide spectrum of subjects and stories. He has covered Punjab and Sikh affairs for more than three decades besides covering seven Olympics and several major sporting events and hosting TV shows.)