Odisha ready to embark on World Cup journey

Nov 27, 2018, 08:38 IST | Ashwin Ferro

"I don't think the surface should be an excuse for us. It is an advantage to have trained on this pitch and we know the surface in and out," he added

Odisha ready to embark on World Cup journey
A huge art piece welcomes passengers in the arrival lounge at Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar. Pics/Ashwin Ferro

The Naveen Patnaik-led Odisha government has spent Rs 100 crore on the refurbishment of the Kalinga Stadium. Additional sums have been spent on marketing and promotion of the Hockey World Cup and every bit of this is evident as soon as you land at the Biju Patnaik Airport.

Huge posters of some of the world's most prominent hockey players adorn the interiors of the airport with colourful cut-outs of the adorable, and sadly endangered, mascot — the Olive Ridley turtle, Olly.

A poster of the Hockey World Cup mascot Olly the Olive Ridley turtle at Bhubaneswar airport
A poster of the Hockey World Cup mascot Olly the Olive Ridley turtle at Bhubaneswar airport

The group of cabbies at the airport, all eager to bag their World Cup tourist, are well informed about the quadrennial showpiece event that starts today.

"India ka achcha chance hai [India have a good chance]," says one of the cabbies. "Quarter-final tak aayengay, lekin medal mushkil hai," says another, hoping for a reaction from this correspondent. "Kuch bhi ho sakta hai [anything can happen]" is this correspondent's reply, bringing a smile to both faces.

Posters of international hockey stars adorn the footpath of the street near Bhubaneswar airport
Posters of international hockey stars adorn the footpath of the street near Bhubaneswar airport

Outside, colourful murals of kids playing hockey with some of their national heroes — past and present — line all roads to the capital city and back.

Everyone who is anyone here knows that there is a hockey World Cup about to start and seem ready for as 16 teams embark on a 20-day journey comprising 39 matches to decide the world's best hockey team.

Team India are ready too. Coach Harendra Singh was calmly confident as he spoke to a bunch of journalists after a training session here. "The India team has got more time on the pitch than other because we have practised on the surface for three weeks," said Harendra.

"I don't think the surface should be an excuse for us. It is an advantage to have trained on this pitch and we know the surface in and out," he added.

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