If India manages to host the Olympics in the future, Odisha will contribute in a major way: Odisha Sports Minister Tusharkanti Behera | More sports News

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha’s contribution to Indian sports over the last decade hasn’t gone unnoticed. It has few parallels, especially in terms of developing world-class infrastructure and hosting international tournaments regularly, until Covid cut that pace down. And the state’s move to sponsor national hockey teams is the only such example across sports and states in India.
One of the main men currently behind that impetus that sports in Odisha has received, Odisha Sports Minister Tusharkanti Behera, talked to TimesofIndia.com on the sidelines of the FIH Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup here in Bhubaneswar.
The minister kept the theme of youth central to most of his replies, including in some tough questions like what happens to the state’s push to improve and support sporting infrastructure if the Naveen Patnaik government is overpowered in the next elections.
Odisha has come a long way when it comes to sports and continues to scale up its support. We can see the work that’s going on inside the Kalinga Stadium complex, Rourkela and other places. Could you talk to us a little more about this push to support and grow sports that is coming right from the Chief Minister’s Office?
For the last 7-8 years, under the guidance and able leadership of honourable CM Navin Patnaik ji, we have been able to organize all the national and international events successfully, both at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar as well as at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Cuttack…Also, we are going day by day to other districts as well. We have started some of the events through Naval Tata Hockey Academy for grassroot coaching and training.

Image credit: Odisha Sports’ Twitter handle
Apart from that, we have been able to create other infrastructure as well for swimming, football and athletics; and 89 multipurpose indoor stadiums will come up in all the urban areas within the next six months. That process is under tender right now.
People from other states, and sometimes within Odisha as well, see it as a push to overall host more international events. What would you like to say in response to that?
The scouting part is (also) challenging for us because we’re doing scouting at block level, advertising for scouting, then going to schools, different associations, different federations so that there should be no communication gap between the district sports officers, coaches at the school level and aspirants at block level. Under-12 and under-14 players are being scouted.
We have 16 hostels comprising approximately 1200 capacity and we are trying to augment that capacity within the next six months. There will be a restructuring of all the sports hostels so that later on those hostels can also become sports schools and academies. We will tie up with academic institutes so that there will be no lacuna in the players’ academic curriculum.
Are you getting corporate support also for this because all this infrastructure development is worth crores. If yes, at what level does it happen?
Yes, there are associations with corporates as well. We are giving them space, some of the CSR funds from the corporates are being utilized. Also, we are attracting mentors or international-level players so that they can give their expertise. We are giving space and infrastructure (for academies and high performance centres). Then we are scouting players across India, not only from within Odisha.
Dutee Chand is an elite athlete from the state. In the past, there has been criticism that there is too much support for one individual athlete rather than all the athletes with potential. How have you handled that?
No, we are focusing on players depending on what kind of player he or she is, and what kind of representation he or she is doing — national level, international level. We have graded disciplines as category A, B, C, D. So (depending on) which player is representing Odisha or India at what level, we are sponsoring the player accordingly. It’s not that we are biased or we are spending too much for one person. That is not true.

Dutee Chand (Facebook Photo)
Do you keep an eye on those funds released to the players? The case in reference being the BMW controversy involving Dutee Chand.
Yes, we are keeping an eye on the expenditure done by the government on every player.
There’s a question that many who track Odisha’s contribution to sports in India have. The state has an election coming up in 2023. The political scenario may change if a different government comes to power. What happens in that case to the push for sports?
First thing, I would like to quote honourable CM Naveen Patnaik’s quotation: “Sports for youth and youth for future.” That is his statement. I think sports is one platform to channelize the energy of the youth. That is the main thing. Apart from sports, we are spending heavily on infrastructure augmentation as well as on skill development. So the youth needs to be engaged in all these kinds of things for their development, then only it can take Odisha on a progressive path.
So you are saying if the Odisha government invests in youth, then the youth will show more trust in the government and also vote for it to remain in power?
What is the role of institutions like Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) as one of the government’s major partners in promoting sports?
I would like to thank the honourable Member of Parliament Dr. Achyuta Samanta (founder of KIIT and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences). Because of his involvement in so many things, many (sports) events have been arranged in their (KIIT) campus as well, like the Khelo India University Games. We stationed some of the officials and players in that campus also. They are very supportive, and the government is pushing players to go to different universities so that their skills can be enhanced, and they are exposed to others (competition) as well.

Image credit: Odisha Sports’ Twitter handle
Odisha owns league teams/franchises as well, like Kalinga Lancers for Hockey India League and Odisha FC in the Indian Super League. What’s the thought process behind that investment?
The honourable CM has sponsored the Indian hockey teams for another 10 years (until 2033). In the Tokyo Olympic bronze medal-winning Indian men’s hockey team, we (Odisha) had two players. So our focus is that more players from Odisha should represent the country in national teams. We are not just focusing on the discipline, but also that players in that particular discipline should have different sets of skills, like a defender, striker or goalkeeper. So I hope that in the next Olympics or in the coming matches, more players from Odisha will be part of our national teams.
You just mentioned the Olympics. Earlier this year, the chief of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and International Hockey Federation chief, Narinder Batra, stated that India might push to host the Olympics in 2036. Is there anything at the back of the Odisha government’s mind that the state should have all the infrastructure in place by the time India decides to bid for the Olympics?
We are now preparing in such a way that more players from different disciplines will be participating in the upcoming Olympics, be it 2024 or 2028. We are investing in infrastructure in huge amounts, and it will come up in multiple disciplines like athletics, swimming, archery, shooting apart from hockey. If the Government of India manages to host the Olympics in the future, I think Odisha will contribute in a major way in that event.
Have you ever had any informal discussion with the IOA president about this as yet?
We’ve been chatting formally and informally. But again, that is up to the Government of India, if the country decides to bid for the Olympics.

Image credit: Odisha Sports’ Twitter handle
Another Hockey World Cup (senior men) is coming up in 2023, and Rourkela will be on the world map this time along with Bhubaneswar. A lot of infrastructure development is going on in the steel city despite numerous Covid enforced breaks…
Hockey is a part of the culture in that region specifically and part of every kid’s childhood. Construction work is going on in Rourkela for the biggest hockey stadium in the world with a seating capacity of 20,000 plus. I have reviewed things as well as the progress of the stadium and other facilities.

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