The men’s hockey World Cup will return to India after eight years when Bhubaneswar hosts the 14th edition of the tournament in 2018, which will bring 16 participating nations and thousands of their fans to the Odisha capital that promises to put up a show.
The Kalinga Stadium has grown as a hockey destination in India ever since it came on the international horizon with the Champions Trophy in 2014. The home of reigning Hockey India League champions Kalinga Lancers earned praise and International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) nod for the ongoing men’s Hockey World League (HWL) Final and the World Cup next year.
The Government of Odisha, which is the title sponsor for both HWL Final and the 2018 World Cup, has had a huge role in promotion of the sport, especially of late.
Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO), a state-owned enterprise in Odisha, jointly owns Kalinga Lancers, which is precisely the reason why the franchise is largely immune from the troubles – mostly financial – that the other HIL teams are facing.
The Kalinga Stadium has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of that. It not only grew to become an international hockey destination but has received constant upgrading in terms of infrastructure. And more is in store.
Stadium capacity to be doubled for World Cup
“The total capacity should rise to 17,000-odd from the current 9000,” Visal Dev, the Sports Secretary of Odisha, told Zee Media.
Pillars have already been raised to extend the West Stand that currently houses the rooms of officials as well as the media besides open enclosures for the crowd.
“We are adding two floors on the West Stand, not for the spectators but for officials and technicians, besides a lounge and media enclosure,” Dev said.
The North and South ends of the stadium will also wear new look in the next six months.
“We are doing two new spectator galleries on the North and South side, which will add about 7000 to the capacity. On the East side, we will have about 1100 new seats coming up,” he added.
Besides that, a permanent food court and some merchandise-selling shops will also come up in the stadium complex that will have wider approach roads to the hockey venue and more landscaping than what it has now.
New astro-turf for both pitches
Hockey India CEO, Elena Norman, confirmed that the two hockey pitches to be used for the November 28 to December 16 World Cup next year will have new astro-turf laid.
“The (Odisha) government will be finishing construction by the end of May 2018. That’s the plan,” Elena told reporters at the sidelines of HWL Final.
“We are going to lay the pitches (astro-turf) and we have scheduled two months for that. We don’t want to do that until most of the construction is over so as to keep them perfect. By July, the chief minister (Naveen Patnaik) will be ready to launch a whole new stadium,” she added.
Some of the players at the ongoing HWL Final complained of a bump on one side of the main pitch being used for the tournament, but Elena said “things do happen” when pitches get old.
“The Indian team was here practicing well before the tournament and we didn’t hear anything. If it were anything serious before the tournament, then it would have been raised,” the CEO said.
“We all know that this pitch is 3-4 years old, so things do happen. They don’t stay perfect, but both the pitches are being changed for the world cup along with the cushion underneath.”
‘Bhubaneswar Festival’ for fans during World Cup
To add grandeur to the occasion, Odisha also has a ‘Bhubaneswar Festival’ on its World Cup roster to give the fans, especially those traveling from outside India, a feel of the local flavour.
“We are planning to hold something like Bhubaneswar Festival that will have daily cultural performances apart from an international food festival. We are also in touch with various local shops and complexes to offer special discounts during that period. All these things are in the offing. The idea is to make the occasion grand,” said Sports Secretary Dev.
Talking about food festival, the HWL Final has been hit by a bit of a controversy where some of the foreign players are down with a stomach bug.
The England and Netherlands teams staying at the Mayfair Lagoon hotel in Bhubaneswar have faced issues with a few of their players having some sort of a stomach infection.
“As a precaution, we have asked the local authorities to make sure that best practice is being done and take due diligence to make sure everything is okay,” Hockey India CEO, Elena, assured.