BHUBANESWAR: The hours leading up to the opening ceremony were marked by chaos on the roads leading to the Kalinga Stadium. Taxi drivers not knowing which way to go, cops not knowing which way what gate was located and impatient fans who were beginning to wonder whether this charade was going to be worth it.
When they walked out shortly after 9 pm, the smiles on their faces told its own story. The ceremony, bloated in parts, delivered on its promise of being a grand spectacle. After Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared the World Cup open, Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and AR Rahman, three of the most recognisable faces in the country, enthralled the capacity crowd inside the Kalinga Athletics Stadium.
The spectacle began on a touching note as the State Government felicitated India’s Class of 1975, the only group of players to have won the World Cup for the country. It continued on that same theme as tribal children welcomed the captains of all the 16 participating teams. The gesture was to pay homage to the sport’s very deep connections in the State.
The audience was then treated to ‘India’s biggest drone show’. The lights above the stadium resembled a hockey stick with a beating heart, a motif which was repeatedly used during the function. Needless to say, this got loud cheers from the crowd. Up next was Shah Rukh Khan, who arrived in a chariot powered by what looked like a battery-powered vehicle.
The crowd went crazy even as he started uttering his famous monologue from ‘Chak de India’. After he presented the captains with the collected heartbeats of India, the HeartBeatsForHockey officially came to a natural conclusion.His exit marked the arrival of Madhuri, who appeared to be hidden inside a globe kept in the centre of the stadium.
After the globe opened outward to reveal a resplendent-looking Dixit, she began to enact the role of ‘Mother Earth’, a dance ballad to celebrate the oneness of humanity, the main theme of the ceremony. Titled ‘ The Earth Song’, it was written and directed by Nupur Mahajan. The 40-minute sequence, choreographed by Shiamak Davar, received a mixed response from the audience. It contained motifs of the five primary elements — earth, water, fire, air and sky.
The best, however, was reserved for last as Rahman’s live performances brought some of the biggest cheers of the evening. The Oscar winner performed numbers from Dil Se Re, Roja and Slumdog Millionaire which brought the proverbial roof down. The last act of the evening — a rendition of the World Cup anthem Jai Hind India — appropriately brought an end to proceedings before a sumptuous pyrotechnic display made the audience take their cellphones out to capture the moment Bhubaneswar announced itself to the world.It’s now over to the teams to do the same.
Odisha has set a standard for next World Cup by organising a spectacular opening ceremony. We are at the 14th edition of World Cup Hockey and it is for the first time that the inaugural ceremony is being held in a grand scale. This is in fact the grandest event in the history of Hockey World Cup. The transformed Kalinga Stadium can be rated one of the top three stadiums in the world. Bhubaneswar would be recognised as the sports capital of the country.
I thank Odisha for coming forward to organise the world cup, which is being held in the country after a long time. ‘Apanamananku bahut bahut dhanyabad apanmane mote ethaku asibaku sujog deithihetu’ (Many many thanks to you all for giving me an opportunity to come here). I truly do not know the corner of the world where hockey is more loved and revered than it is here.
There is no special sport in the world than hockey. It is an amalgamation of lot of emotions, thoughts and actions. Players are the fiercest artists of the world. When the youth are successful and satisfied, the nation flourishes. I am grateful to see Odisha take the root and show the way to the rest of world under the able leadership of Naveen Patnaik.