Sports can be a great unifier. The Odisha Assembly, which witnessed uproar, protests and walkouts during the recently concluded Winter Session, saw a moment of political camaraderie on Friday when the opposition came together to congratulate CM Naveen Patnaik after the International Hockey Federation named Bhubaneswar the host for the 2023 Men’s World Cup. He deserves the kudos as a state is hosting back-to-back editions of the international event for the first time. The 2023 edition of the Cup promises to be unique as Rourkela would be a joint venue along with Bhubaneswar. Naveen’s decision to create 17 astro turfs for that purpose is a real tribute to Sundargarh district, the state’s lifeline of hockey talent.
The latest decision is not just bold; it speaks volumes about the confidence of a state asserting its credentials. Very few Indian states have made a noise in sports like Odisha in recent years. Starting with Asian Athletics Championships in 2017, it has spread its base by bagging marquee international sporting events. Having been invested in grassroots sports development, Naveen’s government has already set up five high-performance centres to nurture talent in different sporting disciplines while addressing sports science and technology; these also have niche training facilities for athletes. Having established India’s new sports capital, the Odisha government must now make use of its investor-friendly framework to get sports-related manufacturing industries to the state.
The global boom in the sports industry, the emergence of private leagues across sporting disciplines and a large export market await to be tapped. North Indian states have already paved the way in creating manufacturing hubs for sports equipment that are labour intensive and generate substantial employment. It’s the right time for Odisha to take a leaf out of their book and strengthen its sports ecosystem. Make In Odisha 2020, the signature investor summit of the state, could be the right platform for Naveen to show off his prowess.