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How Odisha's Rs 150 crore bet played its part in India's historic Olympic hockey bronze

In Bhubaneswar, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who has been closely following the team’s progress into history, called up the Men in Blue and offered his congratulations

Published: 05th August 2021 05:31 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th August 2021 12:45 AM   |  A+A-

Indian players celebrate after defeating Germany 5-4 during the men's field hockey bronze medal match at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Indian players celebrate after defeating Germany 5-4 during the men's field hockey bronze medal match at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo | AP)

By Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: It was around 8.40 am and there was palpable tension in the air. With seconds to go before the final whistle, Germany was awarded a penalty corner with the score line reading 5-4 in India’s favour. It could have gone either way but the stout Indian defence thwarted the final threat and it was history.

The whole of Odisha broke into celebration as the Indian men’s hockey team bagged a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics ending a 41-year drought of medals at the sport’s biggest platform. Two of the team members Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas are from Odisha.

In Bhubaneswar, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who has been closely following the team’s progress into history, called up the Men in Blue and offered his congratulations. “The whole of India is excited, as is Odisha, of course,” an elated Naveen told the team members over a video call.

ALSO READ: Tokyo Olympics: Meet the 18 who ended India's 41-year-old medal drought in men's hockey

Amit and Birendra, the two players who were part of the history-making hockey team, thanked the CM in return and said they are ecstatic.

“We all are behind you and wish you all the best,” the Chief Minister added saying he was looking forward to greeting the team in Bhubaneswar on August 16.

Some time later, Naveen called up family members of both Birendra and Amit, spoke to their mothers and said he was extremely happy that the boys played such good hockey and brought laurels to the country.

For Naveen and Odisha, the Indian hockey team’s historic feat is special. It was his government which not only bolstered hockey infrastructure in the state but also threw its weight behind the revival of the sport in the country. Breaking new ground, in 2018, the Odisha government decided to sponsor both the men's and women's national hockey teams. The government pledged Rs 150 crore for sponsoring the teams for five years.

The Chief Minister and his administration’s special interest in promoting hockey started in 2014 when it floated Kalinga Lancers, a team that played the Hockey India League. Jointly promoted by Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation, a state-owned PSU, and Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd, the team was the first step in the making of history.

ALSO READ: 'New dawn for Indian hockey' : Emotional, teary-eyed ex-players hail Tokyo bronze

Under his leadership, the state government organized the Champions Trophy and rebuilt the Kalinga Stadium as it sought to bring the focus as well as interest of the nation back on hockey which was losing its popularity.

In 2018, the state government hosted the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup and never looked back as it played host to World League, Pro-League and Olympic qualifiers and many more tournaments.

After becoming the first state in India to sponsor the national hockey teams, the Naveen Patnaik government again bid for the 2023 Hockey Men’s World Cup which would be played both in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. For the marquee tournament, the state is constructing a new world class hockey stadium at Rourkela which will be the largest in India with a seating capacity of 20,000 people. The state government has made a provision of Rs 90 crore for the stadium.

It is also building a host of other sports infrastructure besides 17 astro-turf pitches in Sundargarh.

"The Odisha government’s continuous support has ensured stability in performance of the Indian teams. Both the men's and women’s teams have been excelling and the performance has been brilliant in the Olympics so far," said an official source. Besides Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas in the men’s team, Deep Grace Ekka in the women’s team is from Odisha. Interestingly, both the Indian men's and women's teams had booked their Olympic qualification at Kalinga Stadium here.

Meanwhile, Sports and Youth Services Minister Tusarkanti Behera also congratulated the men's team and also wished good luck to the Indian women's team for the upcoming bronze medal match

"The Odisha Chief Minister played a big role in the historic achievement. The Odisha government has been the sponsor of both the Indian men's and women's hockey teams since 2018 and has invested around Rs 150 crore", he said adding the state transformed the Kalinga Hockey Complex into an international venue.

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