Tokyo Olympics: Naveen Patnaik — former Doon School goalie now a benefactor of Indian hockey teams

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August 06, 2021 12:44 PM

Hockey is immensely popular in the state — the vice-captains of both the women’s and men’s teams hail from Odisha, which has spawned legends such as Dilip Tirkey, now an MP for Patnaik’s party, Ignace Tirkey, Sunita Lakra, and Lazarus Barla.

Naveen patnaik hockeyAn avid sports fan, Patnaik believes an investment in sports is an investment in the country’s youth and, in turn, its future. (Photo credit: Twitter/Naveen Patnaik)

When a young Naveen Patnaik was turning out in goal for Doon School’s hockey team a good six decades back, little did he know that he would play a pivotal role in the revival of India’s national team. Now, after the men’s team secured bronze — their first medal in the Olympic Games in 41 years — and the women’s team finished fourth in just their third appearance, the five-term Odisha chief minister can claim much of the credit.

The Odisha government is a sponsor of Hockey India, which oversees both the men’s and women’s teams. When the five-year sponsorship deal worth a massive Rs 100 crore was first announced in 2022, critics jumped at Patnaik’s decision to pump money into sports when the poor state regularly suffered natural calamities. The response came almost three years to the day with the Odisha government taking out advertisements in all national newspapers, announcing its pride to have partnered Hockey India during this journey.

An avid sports fan, Patnaik believes an investment in sports is an investment in the country’s youth and, in turn, its future. Hockey is immensely popular in the state — the vice-captains of both the women’s and men’s teams hail from Odisha, which has spawned legends such as Dilip Tirkey, now an MP for Patnaik’s party, Ignace Tirkey, Sunita Lakra, and Lazarus Barla. Patnaik referred to that when he said children in Sundargarh district learnt to walk using hockey sticks, PTI reported. He added that the sponsorship was Odisha’s gift to the nation as he raised the amount to Rs 150 crore.

Odisha has hosted several international tournaments in the past four years, including the Hockey World Cup, and will host the 2023 edition of the tournament as well. The government is also constructing a state-of-the-art stadium in Rourkela at a cost of Rs 120 crore. The state government has also raised its sports budget to Rs 370 crore from Rs 265 crore this year.

The government has also joined hands with the Tata Group to set up a high-performance centre in the state, which is expected to become the supply line for the senior teams in the future. It is also building 20 training centres for Rs 200 crore to allow aspirants practise on astroturf.

All these developments have had Patnaik’s active backing, whose love and passion for the game gives India a chance to relive the glory days of the all-conquering men’s team and hope that those days would soon make a comeback.

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