Odisha and sports go hand-in-hand. The eastern state of Odisha has emerged as one of the best sporting states in the country.
The overwhelming success of the maiden Odisha Open BWF World Tour Super 100 badminton tournament was a testimony to this fact. According to the authorities, it will be an annual tournament.
Odisha has promised to continue to host national and international badminton events in the future to grow the sport in the state.
Odisha sports minister Tusharkanti Behera has also revealed that Badminton High Performance Center will be coming up in Bhubaneswar soon. It is likely to be operational by the end of the year.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s vision, “sports for youth, youth for future" is the core of all their initiatives. Odisha has been investing significantly in the promotion and development of sports.
There has been an increase in the sports budget over the years and that has helped in strengthening the overall sports ecosystem. They spent around ₹400 crore last year and are looking to spend a significant amount in 2022-23 as well. It is a reflection of Odisha’s commitment towards sports development.
In addition to hosting international and national events of repute, the state has become a hub of high performance centers. It has been transforming its sports infrastructure right from grassroots to elite.
Odisha has been able to support sports like swimming and rugby and also extended its support to national hockey teams by another ten years, till 2033. There has been an overall transformation in our sports model which has been lauded nationally and is empowering athletes.
Odisha sports minister Tusharkanti Behera spoke exclusively to Sportskeeda
Here are excerpts from an interview
Q: Odisha Open BWF World Tour Super 100 Badminton tournament managed to get several sponsors on board this year. Are you satisfied with the response from the sponsors for this season considering the pandemic period?
A: Odisha hosted its first ever BWF event and there was a lot of excitement around it considering badminton is amongst the priority sports for us. It is always encouraging for players and organizers when corporate units come forward to support us. Dalmia Bharat, who is our partner at the Badminton High Performance Center (along with Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy) came forward as title sponsors as it is our shared vision to support the growth of badminton as a sport in the state.
Q: What is the current system in place to discover and nurture young badminton talents (both boys and girls)? Are there any challenges being faced at present in its current form? How is the Odisha Government hoping to develop this system over the next five years?
A: Pandemic posed a challenge for talent scouting however we utilized this period to develop our sports infrastructure like indoor halls and upcoming multipurpose halls.
We are also creating district academies across the state in the existing indoor halls. These will be feeder centers for Odisha SAI Badminton academy and the Badminton High Performance Center.
The aim is to ensure adequate infrastructure and opportunities for kids across the state to transition to the HPC. Additionally, our partnership with legendary coach Pullela Gopichand will ensure our coaches and players receive the highest level of training.
We have recently received registrations from over 60,000 players in the age group of 8-18 and we will be conducting trials soon for different disciplines, badminton being one of them. Odisha will continue to host national and international badminton events to grow the sport in the state.
Q: Badminton High Performance Center is an ambitious project of the Odisha Government. When will it get operational? What are the salient features of the proposed badminton center?
A: Construction is going on in full swing and we expect it to be over by August 2022. We should be able to operationalize this soon thereafter. The Badminton High Performance Center will be a landmark structure with eight badminton courts and 300-spectator seating.
It will also house coach rooms, medical rooms, dormitories for academy boys and girls, gymnasiums, libraries, and sports science rooms. In the shape of a shuttlecock, this center will also be equipped to host competitions.
Q: How does the Odisha Government aim to capitalize on the badminton boom in the country after the recent successes of PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, and Lakshya Sen? Can you share your plans for young and upcoming players of Orissa in the lead up to the Paris Olympics of 2024, Asian Games 2026, and Los Angeles Olympics 2028?
A: The future of badminton is bright and there is tremendous potential for the sport to grow. It is amongst our priority sports too. Rutuparna Panda and Swetaparna Panda, from Odisha, are making their mark and have become inspirational for other badminton players in the state.
We are focussed on nurturing the sport and our Badminton High Performance Center, which will be operational later this year, will play a major role in developing elite shuttlers. We are investing close to Rs 700 Cr in constructing 89 multipurpose indoor halls, in addition to our existing ones, to give additional impetus to indoor sports, particularly Badminton. We will be working closely with the Odisha State Badminton Association and Pullela Gopichand for a focussed training and coaching module and defining our talent pathway for producing international shuttlers from the state.
Q: The Odisha Government has been promoting sports in a big way. What are your next big plans to further develop the state's sports infrastructure?
A: With less than a year to go until the Hockey Men’s World Cup, the focus is on building India’s largest hockey stadium with 20,000 seating capacity in Rourkela, which will co-host the marquee event along with Bhubaneswar. Twenty hockey training centers are also being developed simultaneously in the state to give additional impetus to hockey.
For the upcoming FIFA U 17 Women’s World Cup India 2022, four FIFA standard football training pitches along with the Kalinga Stadium main football pitch have been developed within the city of Bhubaneswar. FIFA's standard artificial turf is also coming up in Bhubaneswar, which will be used for elite training as well as for running grassroots programs.
Similarly, there is an ongoing Rs 400 crore sports infrastructure project within Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. It includes India's first indoor athletics stadium, the Aquatic Center, Tennis Center Court and Hockey HPC. Lastly, the mega 700 crore project, which includes 89 multipurpose indoor halls, is also being constructed across the state.