By Piyush Rout,
The smooth ride from the city centre on a straight line heads up the steep upwards into Kalinga Stadium, a small, silent square with a lots of informal shops and group of young policemen patrolling just opened refurbished Athletics Stadium that the city has recently built as city’s one & only multi sports arena. Spurred by three looming mega events Asian Athletics Championship, Men’s Hockey World Cup next year and in winter World Hockey League Final 2017 is something crazy locals as well as officials struggling to reinvent themselves in this onetime third world city with a first world economy activities. The authorities have not left a stone in trying their best to showcase the city best as per their dreams by widening roads, putting in more parking place, security sanitized, colouring walls with graffiti, planting trees and illuminating streets etc at its best prior to arrival of guests from forty five nations.
As usual with the arrival of dates the opening ceremony of any International games tells a story about the hosting region or city or nation at large and how it wants the world to see it. So did in Bhubaneswar at the opening ceremony of Asian Athletics Championships, the narrative that unfolded after the parade of the nations was centred on the various national, regional & international groups that have come together to form the Odisha that exists today. It’s made up of traditional dance, music, cutting across various culture and filled of course with music, dancing. But the story also suggested that Odisha coast faces a growing and alarming threat.
The ceremony presented the quest of Odisha rising in front of World though Asia. It was a strong political statement that called all nations that Odisha had the leadership to deliver its commitment when the matter national pride be it Disaster Management recognition by United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction in 2013 on its Zero Casualty mission to safeguard lifes of millions or delivering the Game in 90 days time after host city pulled out of hosting the game. As international association of athletics federation, Asian Athletics Association and Athletics Federation of India expressed Odisha had raised the Games status into a new height as Bhubaneswar given the opportunity to bring the game to this lovely city are few of the sentiments that applauded the glory of Odisha. In single sentence perhaps it’s Odisha’s moment either one celebrate or ignore it but history will always remember the host & how it saved India’s pride, even being often joked as poor by top leaders of this country.
It was hard not to think of other problems threatening the state, too. Despite years of economic prosperity and hope, the present Odisha is a produect of how a government rise from a state often known as corruption scandal & poverty and eroded by floods and swept away by cyclones has reached the highest levels of Governance and helping Odisha move into one of worlds prospering region in recent history. Well seventeen years ago when this Govt took oath of office at the back drop of one worlds greatest recorded natural disaster that India witnessed which left tens of thousand life overnight but decades after same Government displayed its leadership by leading a Zero Casualty Mission to safeguard its human beings from Phailin Cyclone of similar magnitude of 1999. The approach was termed many as the new model of Disaster Management not just in India but across the globe where Zero Casualty is now the mission of handling natural disasters etc.
Perhaps managing & setting new goals in Disaster Management actually shaped the Govt. converting challenges into opportunities. As when Ranchi pulled out of hosting the game despite belonging to same political parties that runs India at Delhi was a surprise for many but more surprise was India’s rich states didn’t even bother coming forward to host Athletics Championship rather they were busy getting a cricket match or becoming venue of FIFA Under 17 World Cup.
Probably the rich states were not tuned to such decision making system that Odisha is groomed in last one and half a decade which coolly accepted the challenge in one go. Perhaps such challenge is not new as in past Odisha had delivered Hockey Stadium with international standards on time to host Champions Trophy and in past hosted the Pakistan Women’s Cricket team during Women’s World Cup as most states in India refused to host for various reasons and Odisha is also the venue of World Hockey League latter this year and Hockey World Cup in 2018 are some of the ingredients that would definitely put question mark on many rich states progress towards national pride.
Bhubaneswar’s opening ceremony also looked at the state’s history, going back to the lives of the indigenous people, the making of sculpture, the arrival of the Buddhism, the journey Odia’s across the seas along with Odisha’s famous music performed by national artists. But maybe the most powerful and telling message came from international association of athletics federation that delivering a game in 90 days time keeping games standard is incredible. It was maybe meant to suggest Athletics would survive to meet future threats as well as no less a symbol of Odisha and its own hope for the future with Sports.
The day of the opening ceremony, as well as the run-up to it, had been fraught with running from poles to pillars not less than sprints to chase a ticket or pass to get inside the stadium remain a marathon for many that even though blank seats inside didn’t allowed many to high jump to have glimpses of the game remains disqualified and same time the game has fallen in a political, social and economic lows of Odisha as many electronic medias remain away from showcasing Odisha’s Journey as National Pride and politics that kept officials & ministry of national govt away from game as if boy cutting participation in Olympics has its own merits & demerits but locally its everyone’s pride that Poorest state as one may say is celebrating its glory.
Well Some may Ignore Odisha But their ignorance & desperation will not erode the pride of Odisha or Bhubaneswar what both have scripted or will be scripting this weekend will always be remembered in World Athletics History among host of the games that no one can’t ignore nor erode its National Pride.