WIN-WIN FROM NAVEEN
Odisha’s capital city is now the cynosure of sports lovers around the globe. The world watched in awe as the 14th edition of Men’s Hockey World Cup hockey got off to a roaring start with the gala opening ceremony at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar on November 27. Even as tournament matches began the next day the second phase of the opening ceremony was held at Cuttack’s Barabati stadium.
The star attraction at both the ceremonies was chief minister Naveen Patnaik who was praised lavishly by Bollywood heavyweights Shah Rukh Khan (who graced the occasion in Bhubaneswar) and Salman Khan (who wowed the Cuttack crowd).
Four people were in focus at the glittering ceremony in Bhubaneswar – Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan who made his entry on a chariot, Bollywood diva Madhuri Dixit who set hearts racing with her perfectly choreographed dance performance, and music maestro AR Rahman who captivated the 15,000-strong crowd with his foot-stomping music.
While it was evident that the chief minister has won the hearts of the people of the state by organising the showcase event in Bhubaneswar (a big roar of approval went up as he asked the audience ‘Are you happy?’), Shah Rukh was all praise for the state as well as for the Chief Minister who he introduced as someone who used to be the goalkeeper of his school team.
"I feel humbled and would like to thank all of you for having me here. Sports connects humanity,” said Khan. Each captain was escorted by a tribal boy on to the stage, a symbolic gesture to show that hockey is deeply rooted in the state’s tribal culture. Madhuri set the tone for the World Cup with her “Mother Earth” performance.
The crowd went into a frenzy with Oscar and Grammy award-winning music composer AR Rahman regaling them with some of his best including the title song ‘Jai Hind Hind, Jai India.’ With Shiamak Davar choreographing, around 1,200 artists presented different dance forms including classical, jazz, ballet, Afro, Shastriya, Odissi, Mohiniyattam and Kathak. Ollywood heart-throbs Sabyasachi Mishra and Archita Sahu were also part of the performing team.
The programme at Cuttack’s Barabati was equally grand with Salman immediately striking a chord with the crowd by saying “Jai Jagannath” and “Balijatra kemiti chalichi?” (how is the ongoing Balijatra festival in the city coming along?).
The star, who described Cuttack as the city of “bhaichara” (brotherhood), spoke highly of the Chief Minister and his simplicity.
“He has only four kurtas and two kolhapuri chappals. He is such a simple man,” said the star to a tumultuous applause from the crowd which was treated to great performances by music maestro, AR Rahman and Ollywood stars including Anubhav Mohanty, Barsha Priyadarshini, Archita, Elina and Sabyasachi.
The twin inaugural ceremonies set the tone for the World Cup, but what is beyond doubt is that if Bhubaneswar has emerged as the new sporting capital of India, the credit should go exclusively to the Chief Minister and the few officers handpicked by him. Over the course of the last one and a half years the state capital has played host to a string of international events but hosting the Men’s Hockey World Cup successfully has firmly put Bhubaneswar on the sports map of the world.
Success followed meticulous planning and hard work. For the men who gave it their all it meant burning the candle at both ends. The hectic pace at which the capital city was spruced up and beautified and Kalinga stadium, the venue, was readied, left everyone amazed.
Patnaik, who lives by the motto “We can do it”, personally supervised the preparations making even nocturnal visits to the stadium where heavy-duty machinery including giant sized cranes worked round the clock. The workers engaged for the city’s beautification work worked mainly during the night hours so as not to disturb the day-time traffic and cause as little pollution as possible.
The invisible man, who was pulling the wires from behind the scenes and making things happen was chief minister’s private secretary and state’s smartest and most efficient bureaucrat, V. Karthikeyan Pandian. A livewire, he was issuing directions on behalf of the chief minister and marshalling his resources deftly. The key men he depended on for the successful execution of the task, especially making the state capital ready for the big show, was BMC commissioner and BDA vice-chairperson Krishan Kumar, another dynamic officer who rose to the challenge gallantly.
The task was cut out for both of them. Pandian ensured that Kalinga stadium matched international standards. The journey of the stadium, the third venue in the country to host Men’s Hockey World Cup after Mumbai and New Delhi, has been nothing short of miraculous. The sports complex got the opportunity to host the mega event five years after getting its first hockey turf. Over the years the stadium has also attracted hockey fans in a big way making it one of the most sought-after venues for the game in the country.
Construction of a hockey stadium in the sports complex in 2013 proved to be a masterstroke for the state which has produced a number of international hockey players such as Dilip Tirkey, Lajarus Barla and Prabodh Tirkey. Before the synthetic turf was laid at the Kalinga Sports Complex, the state has four such turfs all in Sundergarh district, the cradle of hockey in Odisha.
The hockey stadium initially built with a seating capacity of 6,000 hosted the state-based franchise Kalinga Lancers in the Hockey India League in 2014, the first major event in the sport. The craze for the game and enthusiastic crowds paved the way for other international tournaments. Subsequently the stadium hosted Champions Trophy in 2014 and Men’s Hockey World League Final in 2017.
“During our playing days we used to be desperate to play in the state but the infrastructure was not adequate for international matches. It was an irony that the state which had nurtured a number of international players could not host even a single international match for years. However, within a span of a few years we not only hosted two international tournaments but also the World Cup, the ultimate test in hockey,” said Dilip Tirkey, former Indian hockey captain.
The state government had to face criticism when it decided to demolish the swimming complex adjacent to the hockey stadium for the construction of two additional galleries for increasing the seating capacity of the stadium to 15,000. Besides, opposition parties have time and again criticized the government for spending the lion’s share of the sports budget on hockey, ignoring other sports.
State sports minister Chandrasarathi Behera, however, said that infrastructure boost is the most important part for promotion of sports. “The sports complex in recent times has hosted the Asian Athletics Championship, matches of Indian Super League and an International rugby tournament. This was only possible due to the infrastructure boost to the sports complex,” he said.
The Kalinga stadium was as much in focus as the capital city itself. This was an opportunity to showcase the city before the world and also to promote tourism. The responsibility of sprucing up the city, raising its profile to international standards lay entirely with young Krishan Kumar who has proved his capacity to deliver the goods since he was the collector of Ganjam – especially after a disastrous cyclone hit the district.
WELL THOUGHT OUT
He rose to the challenge yet again. While Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation and Bhubaneswar Development Authority put their best foot forward, he ensured that they worked in tandem with the Public Works Department. The city walls were painted with beautiful motifs highlighting the state’s art and culture, a plantation drive was taken along the medians on almost all the roads and pedestrian and cycling tracks were marked on all the arterial roads.
The PWD constructed two-foot overbridges in a record time of three months outside the Kalinga Stadium. These were meant to reduce the traffic congestion on Bidyuty Marg. The repair of roads and fresh marking of lanes, zebra lines, painting of medians and sides of the roads were undertaken in record time, too. Directional and informational signage were also installed on major roads and intersections of the city.
The BMC under the direct supervision of Kumar also completed installation of automatic and semi-automatic modular toilets for men and women at strategic locations in the city including Janpath, Rajpath and Bidyut Marg. To ensure cleanliness, the civic authorities installed semi-underground and underground waste bins.
Keeping the road clean was a priority and civic officials introduced the long-awaited mechanical sweeping machines. Two such machines were put on job to keep the major roads free of garbage and dirt. The machines worked during hours that did not disturb normal life in the city.
It was BDA’s responsibility to ensure greenery in the city and the authority proved itself up to the job. Apart from enhancing greenery in all parts of the city it also installed hanging planters on electric poles.
The authorities also illuminated the three flyovers along the national highway and 17 major temples located in the Old Town area. While the city’s first open air museum opened music in the park, programme resumed.
Public transport facility in the city underwent a complete overhaul thanks to the World Cup. With Pandian’s genius at work, the government restructured erstwhile Bhubaneswar-Puri Transport Services Limited and formed a new entity called Capital Region Urban Transport to upgrade urban mobility services for the state capital and surrounding areas with the focus on connecting the uncovered areas and tourist places. Here are the highlights of this initiative:
MO BUS SERVICE
This service was launched for the visitors ahead of the Men’s Hockey World Cup with rollout of 125 technology-driven buses. The new buses were introduced on as many as nine routes, three of which are entirely new and connect the outskirts. Transport officials also launched a shuttle service using Mo Buses, aimed at ferrying people from designated parking places in Janta Maidan and Kalinga Stadium.
The new buses have been equipped with Wi-Fi, Close Circuit Television Cameras, online ticketing system and GPS-enabled tracking system. The authorities have also introduced a Mo Bus smartphone application for the android users and also launched a dedicated website which will provide information relating to the buses as well as the shuttle services. The authorities decided to run the services 24x7 during the period of the entire hockey world cup stretching over 22 days.
The Capital Region Urban Transport officials have also redeveloped 100 existing big bus shelters and constructed 100 new ones in different parts of the city keeping the requirements of people during the World Cup in mind. The bus queue shelters are made of steel instead of the earlier iron frames. The shelters have a city map providing information about the bus routes. Digital display boards have also been placed to provide information about the bus timings and their status. With waste bins put near them to maintain cleanliness and bicycle docking stations constructed near them they match international standards.
To cap it all, the Chief Minister launched the much-awaited public bicycle sharing programme appropriately called Mo Cycle, aimed at reducing traffic congestion and enhancing space efficiency. This will promote non-motorized transport and help protect environment.
Launching the programme, Naveen flagged off a promotional rally from Airport Square to Kalinga Stadium in which more than 300 bicyclists took part, prominent among them being housing and urban development department minister Niranjan Pujhari, city mayor Ananta Narayan Jena and BMC commissioner Krishan Kumar.
Mo Cycle can be accessed by downloading the Mo Cycle App which is available on android and iOS operating systems. The user can register with one of the three operators for a monthly subscription and take the bicycles and go on a ride around the city. The activities will be coordinated by Capital Region Urban Transport.
The rider can locate the nearest Mo Cycle station and unlock the bike through a QR code scan. After reaching the destination, the rider has to end the ride on App, manually lock and park the bicycle at any station for pick up by the subsequent rider. As part of the launch, the administration has made first 30 minutes of the ride free for the users.
Under the programme, nearly 2,000 modern bicycles with 400 bicycle stations have been provided to the riders who can take the Mo Cycle from any location and drop off at any destination of their choice. The operators will coordinate to ensure the redistribution and availability of Mo Cycles at locations with high demand at any given time.
The bicycles are equipped with technologies such as the GPS tracking system, cashless transactions through mobile app and smart locks. “Meant for both men and women, the cycles have special features such as adjustable seats and utility baskets,” said Krishan Kumar.
Sources said that unlike rental services, the Mo Cycles will be stored in a closely spaced network of stations and will be made available to riders for short-term and shared use. The new system will encourage use of same cycle by multiple riders every day.
The government also came up with another scheme to ensure that visiting tourists moved around the state capital easily. The visitors could hire a motorcycle for the purpose with the State Transport Authority (STA) granting license to Yor Smartride Private Limited for renting out motorcycles. Transport officials said that this was the first license issued in the state under the rent a motorcycle scheme.
Transport commissioner Sanjeeb Panda said that any person having a valid license to drive two wheelers could avail the service. “The scheme has been introduced for convenience of tourists coming to the state capital for the World Cup,” Panda said.
Tourists need to log into www.yorindia.com and sign up with details of email address, mobile number and date of booking. Indian tourists need to produce Aadhaar card and driving license is mandatory while foreign tourists need to produce their Visa and Passport for booking a motorcycle. The operator, however, will keep the original passport of foreign tourists which will be returned after the motorcycle is handed over. Tourists also need to pay security money of Rs 300 for scooters and Rs 500 for motorcycles which is refundable after the delivery of the vehicle.
The tariff for the services ranges between Rs 39 to Rs 95 per hour depending upon the types of vehicles while the minimum booking hours is three. The tourists need to bear the fuel cost. “Pickup and return of vehicles will be done at the office of the operator at Bajrang Vihar in Patia. We have installed smart devices to detect the speed of motorcycle. In case the driver drives beyond the speed limit we will impose a penalty of Rs 200,” said an employee of the operator.
Regional transport officer, Bhubaneswar II, S.K Behera said that the private operator has kept 11 motorcycles in the first phase which will be increased to 50. “We have provided permit to the vehicles and tourists can also seek our help in case of any grievances,” said Behera.
Driven by chief minister himself and meticulously planned by Pandian, the state government engaged in relentless promotion of the World Cup ensuring its grand success. Odisha Tourism kickstarted marketing activities in July when it unveiled the ‘Odisha by Morning, Hockey by Evening’ campaign in London during the Women’s Hockey World Cup. Thereafter, the campaign was promoted at various tourism events across the country and the world.
It was the highlight during the India Tourism Mart that was held in New Delhi in September. Odisha Tourism representatives engaged with buyers and discussed upcoming facilities, MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions facilities), possibility in the field of adventure tourism and other niche products.
“The aim was to come up with an initiative campaign that combines the excitement of the World Cup with the excitement of discovering the tourism attractions of Odisha,” said a senior tourism official.
FROM THE HEART
Thereafter, the state government launched the Heartbeats for Hockey movement that reaches out to sports lovers asking them to pledge a heartbeat for hockey in a bid to lend support to the sport.
The collected heartbeats pledged both digitally and on-ground were presented to the hockey captains of the world when they came together on stage at the opening ceremony. Around two crore heartbeats were collected.
Brand strategist Nupur Mahajan, who planned the entire marketing campaign for the Hockey World Cup, said: “The idea was to make the sport as popular as football or cricket. We wanted to reach out to people through various means, including social networking sites, music, art and various other forms. By the end of the World Cup, hockey should be on the minds of everyone.”
A number of initiatives were also taken by youngsters on an individual level to promote the sport. Volunteers launched a plantation drive, pledging for a ‘Green Hockey World Cup.’ As part of the drive, the first sapling was planted by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at Kalinga Stadium. The plantation drive was carried out by around 2.5 lakh volunteers across all the districts of Odisha.
Members of voluntary groups have been rigorously promoting the sport on various social media platforms. “The need of the hour is to reach out to the young minds and let them know about the potential that the state has in terms of being both a sporting and tourist destination. We have seen immense enthusiasm among people in the rural pockets about the sport,” said one of these group leaders.
The World Cup message was also spread during the Rath Yatra when cyclists pedalled all the way to Puri from Bhubaneswar and interacted with the devotees telling them about the tournament.
With the successful organisation of the event, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has given Odias a sense of pride as the state and the capital city of Bhubaneswar received global recognition. Odisha is no more just the land of Lord Jagannath.
“It is now a happening state. That is the greatest contribution of our chief minister and his team,” quipped young Shashi Tripathy, an IT professional.
It is this lot that would undoubtedly vote for Naveen when the elections come calling.