By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, December 19, 2018: As the most magnificent Hockey event was coming to a close on 16 December, 2018, the meteorologists sent chills up the spines of the hockey enthusiasts saying a terrible oceanic storm called ‘Phethai’ was rushing to make a landfall a day later with horrific effects in Bhubaneswar. There would be rain blown in by chilling wind.

The organisers simply did not pay heed to the weather forecast and kept focus on the participants and the dream facilities brought in place. The chief sports administrator declared with confidence that only a high-Richter quake or a most devastating super cyclone may disturb the flow of action; nothing short of these calamities would make any dent!

Phethai kept moving landwards but, as if by miracle, it lost speed. It’s intensity too was curtailed by the almighty. Thus, the Sunday – 16 December witnessed one of the most memorable hockey events ever staged on the planet. Belgium bet defending champion Australia in a nail-biting finish. Amid rapturous applause and glitter, the greatest hockey show came to a happiest end, Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar, watching the game in utter awe of the grandeur. He was seated next to Naveen Patnaik – the host chief minister.


The Odisha-born Union Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan had also shown up to give away couple of awards along with other dignitaries. Surprisingly, however, the Sundargarh-born and bred union minister Jual Oram was nowhere to be seen. The people of Odisha have not taken his absence well primarily because Sundargah is world famous today as the ‘Hockey breeding’ soil of India. And the hockey wizards are all from the tribal families. Oram boasts of being a tribal aborigin but he never cared a bit to be at the grandest event to take pride as home state Odisha had caused ripples across the sports world already by restoring glory to the most popular game of the nation with incredible efforts and social investments.

Sachin Tendulkar was virtually speechless at the gloss, glitter, pomp and show and above all the maddening frenzy among fans to have a glimpse of the great game that every Indian took pride until late. Cricket killed hockey. So Sachin was made to see how glamorous Hockey can be and how Odisha promotes the deemed national game.

The last hockey extravaganza was held in 2014 t the Kyocera Stadium in The Hague, Netherlands. It was the thirteenth edition of the Hockey World Cup, the popular quadrennial world championship for men’s national field hockey teams organized by the FIH. The players and officials who saw the last world cup had no hesitation in saying, “Bhubaneswar has set such standards as will be difficult to replicate anywhere in future. So magnificent and perfect on all counts!”

Some interesting facts on record

• Odisha Hockey World Cup was watched by a record 194 countries, a whopping 150% increase over the 2014 event.
• More than 30 global broadcasters telecast the games live.
• Territories without media rights saw matches streamed on the FIH YouTube channel.

Today hockey is considered an astoundingly fast and glamorous game. No wonder, Elena Norman, CEO Hockey India, had commented, “The trajectory of hockey as a sport in India has attained a new high given the recent commendable performances of the Indian Hockey teams.”

The roots of hockey are buried deep in antiquity. Historical records show that a crude form of the game was played in Egypt 4,000 years ago; in Ethiopia a thousand years later, whilst an ancient form of the game was also played in Iran around the same time as Egypt.

Various museums offer evidence that a form of the game was played by the Romans and Greeks as well as the Aztecs several centuries before Columbus arrived in the New World.

The modern game of hockey emerged in England in the mid-18th century and is largely attributed to the growth of public schools, such as Eton.

The first Hockey Association was formed in the UK in 1876 and drew up the first formal set of rules. The original association survived for just six years but, in 1886, it was revived by nine founding member clubs.

The inaugural Olympic Hockey Competition for men was held in London in 1908 with England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales competing separately. With the addition of Germany and France, the competition ran with six teams.

Hockey was subsequently dropped from the 1912 Stockholm Games after host nations were granted control over ‘optional sports’. It reappeared in 1920 in Antwerp after pressure from Belgian hockey advocates before being omitted again in Paris in 1924.

The formation of the International Hockey Federation in 1924 was not soon enough for the Paris Olympics but it did grant hockey re-entry in Amsterdam in 1928. Hockey has stayed ever since, with women’s hockey included in the Moscow Olympics of 1980.

These founding members representing both men’s and women’s hockey includes Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Spain and Switzerland.

By 1964, there were already 50 countries affiliated with the FIH, as well as three Continental Associations – Africa, Pan America and Asia – and in 1974, there were 71 members. Today, the International Hockey Federation consists of five Continental Associations, 132 National Associations and is growing bigger.

The founding member countries which represented both men’s and women’s hockey in their countries comprise Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Spain and Switzerland. By 1964, there were already 50 countries affiliated with the FIH, as well as three Continental Associations – Africa, Pan America and Asia – and in 1974, there were 71 members. Today, the International Hockey Federation consists of five Continental Associations, 132 National Associations and is still growing.

Very interestingly, the Hockey World Cup was first conceived by Pakistan’s Air Marshal Nur Khan. He proposed his idea to the FIH through Patrick Rowley, the first editor of World Hockey magazine. The idea was approved on 26 October 1969, and adopted by the FIH Council at a meeting in Brussels on 12 April 1970. They decided to hold the inaugural World Cup in Pakistan in October of 1971. But then the political situation was bad as Bangladesh liberation war was on with India as the principal adversary against Pakistan. Given the intense political climate between Pakistan and India, the FIH decided to move the tournament to the Real Club de Polo grounds in Barcelona, Spain, which was considered a neutral and peaceful European site.

The FIH has set no requirements or limitations on the size of the competition. The 1971 Cup included only ten nations, the smallest World Cup to date. The 1978 Cup featured fourteen nations. The 2002 Cup featured sixteen nations, the largest World Cup same as the Bhubaneswar spectacle. The remaining 9 World Cups have featured only 12 nations.

Five countries have dominated the event’s history. Pakistan is the most successful team, having won the tournament four times. The Netherlands have won three titles, and Germany and Australia have each won two titles. India has picked the cup only once despite several Olympic gold medals both as a British colony and an independent country.

The Kalinga stadium was put up long time ago to remain a patch of enclosed wilderness until Injeti Srinivas, as the top sports administrator gave it some dignified life and entity. For long did it remain an informally owned property of some senior bureaucrats who had learnt the elitist game of tennis at the Lal Bahadur Shashtri academy of administration at Mussourie. Later when Vishal Dev became boss of sports administration, he began quite in earnest to promote real good sports in Odisha, having realised that Hockey was life to some the western region of the state.

The Kalinga stadium underwent a great deal of cosmetic transformation until it became a venue of immense envy for many sports organisers. Hockey shifted base to Bhubaneswar soon. Then came the 2017 Asian athletics, organised within ninety days, as host Jharkhand chickened out at the eleventh hour. And now was the mind-blowing spectacle of hockey world cup. History has already been made with the bitterest critics and adversaries confessing to having witnessed the greatest hockey show on Earth – on a scale even the affluent western countries would not imagine to put up.

Most significantly, the state has not eaten up a rupee from the public coffers except for what is absolutely public goods. Corporates, traders and business houses have come by the Hockey Federation which did the funding.

When asked what exact magic wand he waived to make things happen, the shy principal sports administrator Vishal Dev said humbly, “ Exceptional ‘team play’, superb inter-departmental coordination and methodical planning keeping in view all possible problems that would crop up. All schedules were kept without fail by adhering to the timelines on a precision mode. The colleagues at the IDCO, OMC, BMC and several more stood by like shadow and provided backend support ungrudgingly. Most importantly, the CMO stood like rock behind the team at work as hockey world cup was at the top of Naveen Patnaik’s agenda since long.

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