Vishal Kumar Dev, Odisha’s sports secretary, says that Odisha, under Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, has evolved a lot in the last 20 years and there has been much overall development of the state in all sectors.
In an exclusive interview to The Sunday Guardian, Vishal Kumar Dev, Commissioner cum Secretary, Department of Sports and Youth Affairs, Government of Odisha, talked on a slew of issues. Excerpts:
Q. The Odisha government recently organised the first-of-its-kind “Ekamra Sports Literary Festival” in the state. What was the idea behind the event and what are the other activities that you plan to promote sports?
A. The idea was to showcase the new Odisha to the world. We always had an image that we are a poor state, but the last 20 years have been phenomenal and transformational for the state. Across various media, we have taken up a concerted plan for promotion of the Hockey World Cup. We have buses running in London advertising our tourism as well as the hockey tournament. We promoted the idea to go surfing on Odisha beaches and watching and playing hockey in the evening. This kind of concept was seen in cities like Sydney, London, Kuala Lumpur and Amsterdam. During the Indian Independence Day celebrations in the Silicon Valley, we had a branding from Odisha as well. We got phenomenal appreciation for this concept. The idea was to tell the whole world that the Hockey World Cup is happening in Odisha. After doing that, we came up with the jersey launch. We also decided to sponsor the National Hockey team—men, women, junior, senior—for a period of five years. We roped in designer Narendra Kumar to design the jersey. We got A.R. Rahman to make and sing us the anthem, while Bollywood superstar ShahRukh Khan came to the opening ceremony.
Q. Apart from promoting sports, what are the other areas where Odisha can attract a global audience?
A. As mentioned before, Odisha has evolved in the last 20 years. If we talk about industrial developments, we are one of the leading states, we are among the top three investment destinations in the country. If we talk about rural development, we are the leading performers across many schemes, be it rural housing or rural roads. You talk about education among the tribal children and we are again positioned at Number 1 in the country. So there has been an overall development and so the idea was to use this platform to show the new Odisha. Other than that, we are also a beautiful tourist destination with a 480km coastline; we have got beaches, heritage tourism, temples and wildlife to attract people from across the country and abroad.
Q. You mentioned about going surfing in the morning and watching hockey in the evening. Had you planned any tour services for that?
A. We had developed packages to promote tourism and sports simultaneously. The Odisha Tourism Development Corporation had made special packages for a day or two days, which covered all nearby places. The details were available on our website. Anyone could call us up or book it over our website. It gave a glimpse of what Odisha has to offer. While people were here, they, of course, watched hockey; they could also watch nearby areas such as Puri, Konark, Chilika, Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary, Similipal Wildlife Sanctuary. In fact, the state is blessed to have such beautiful tourist destinations around Bhubaneswar.
Q. Elaborate on the renovation works that had been done to make the Kalinga stadium world class.
A. If you look at the hockey complex, we previously had two stands, the East stand and the West stand. For the hockey World Cup, we made two more stands, the North and the South stand. The previous capacity was of 8,000 and now it is 15,000; so we have almost doubled the capacity. We have also constructed permanent rooms for the technical teams and officials—these were previously of a temporary nature. We did very beautiful landscaping if you look at the other complexes of the stadium. We redesigned the gates. Gates 3 and 4, which are the main gates, had been beautifully designed. The entry to the stadium should be grand. We widened the roads, we rebuilt the entire drainage system, we did underground lighting. The goal was that everyone visiting the stadium should go back with a very fond memory.
Q. What is Fan Village and what were the activities that took place there?
A. There were two major attractions. One was the Fan Village that was the common point of entry for all the ticket holders in the stadium. It had a large LED screen, food stalls and stalls set up by sponsors of the FIH. Fan Village also had stalls to sell merchandise, popular arts and crafts of Odisha.
Secondly, we also planned to create a city festival, where we invited famous performers from across the country to perform there on weekends or every day. We got local Odishi dancers, Sufi singers, Bollywood artistes and singers coming in and performing. There was an international food festival apart from a story-telling festival where story tellers from across the world came. We also did a Bhubaneswar Art trail where some famous names came and participated.