‘Hockey ne Rourkela ko badal diya’: Locals thank the sport for a sea change

Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium (IANS Photo)ROURKELA: The sound of rolling suitcases stopped. “Can we call a cab in Rourkela?” asked one among a group of journalists. The gatekeeper guarding one of the entrances of the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium (BMHS) here intervened with a wry smile. “Sab cab hai yahan, sir. Koi bhi company ki bula lijiye (there are cab operators available here, book any)”, he said with pride in his expression.A couple of years back, the city was crying for proper roads. The scene now is a stark contrast.Well-lit roads, cleaned to the last speck of dust, are a reflection of the Rourkela’s new possession — the BMHS, which the locals believe is nothing short of a blessing for the city in Sundargarh district.”Yahan koi sahi road nahi tha, Rourkela ke kisi bhi area mei (none of the areas in Rourkela had proper roads). Hockey ne Rourkela ko badal diya (hockey has changed the face of the city),” said the driver, an eager guy in his late 20s, named Kushal Budhadev.”These fancy lamps on the sides of the roads, this neatness, the picture art on walls, well maintained and organised landscapes are all thanks to the Hockey World Cup. Rourkela was never like this before.”The BMHS complex, with a 20,000-seater hockey stadium, also houses a first-of-its-kind World Cup village where the teams will stay during their games in Rourkela.The first ever twin-city Men’s World Cup will be co-hosted by Rourkela and the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar from January 13 to 29.The box office at one of the entrances of the stadium had a long queue, taking mind back to the 2014 Champions Trophy, when Bhubaneswar first embraced international hockey and fans jostled for tickets. Since then, Odisha has become synonymous with the sport world over.The challenge for Rourkela, which has witnessed crores being spent on the city’s beautification besides over Rs 250 crore to build BMHS alone, will be to maintain its new refined look once the World Cup ends and life will be back to normal.”The present contract to maintain all this is for three years,” said Kushal.”At least till then it will remain like this,” he quipped.