Lucknow hosted the 2016 edition of the tournament, which India won. But with just two months left until the start of the showpiece event of FIH‘s junior calendar, a venue with world class hockey infrastructure and experience of organising multiple international events over the last decade was difficult to beat.
Bhubaneswar also hosted the 2018 senior men’s World Cup and is scheduled to host its next edition as well in 2023 along with Rourkela as the second host city.
The announcement on Thursday was made by the Odisha chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, in Bhubaneswar, where he also unveiled the tournament’s logo and the trophy.
📢 𝗔𝗡𝗡𝗢𝗨𝗡𝗖𝗘𝗠𝗘𝗡𝗧The hockey fever is going to be back in town! 🤩The showpiece event 𝗙𝗜𝗛 𝗢𝗗𝗜𝗦𝗛𝗔 𝗛𝗢𝗖𝗞𝗘𝗬 𝗠𝗘𝗡’𝗦 𝗝𝗨𝗡𝗜𝗢𝗥… https://t.co/5Pj6xLEiEF
— Odisha Sports (@sports_odisha) 1632403572000
But there are challenges already for the tournament. Australia and New Zealand have pulled out because of Covid-related travel restrictions and have been replaced by USA and Canada. There are still doubts over the participation of England.
As host, India has challenges of a different nature. That includes decisions amid the ongoing pandemic, especially over allowing spectators inside the stadium, and the problems related to the visit by a team from Pakistan.
The Pakistan team couldn’t visit Lucknow in 2016 because of visa issues.
The Odisha government, however, is focused on getting things ready in time, with the tournament beginning in two months from now.
President, @FIH_Hockey, Dr. Narinder Dhruv Batra talks about the potential a Junior Hockey World Cup has on a count… https://t.co/ssqAVzOcJv
— Odisha Sports (@sports_odisha) 1632459911000
The state’s Secretary Sports & Youth services, Vineel Krishna, talked to TimesofIndia.com about Bhubaneswar’s preparedness to host the 16-team event.
The FIH Men’s hockey junior World Cup, another addition to the sporting legacy of Odisha…
We are quite excited that this tournament is being hosted here. As our honorable chief minister had said in his speech, we hope India will again become the champion here so that the (junior World) Cup continues to stay in the country. That will give a big momentum to hockey. After the Tokyo Olympics (bronze), that (winning) momentum will continue if we can win the junior world Cup and then later on the senior World Cup as well (in 2023).
How did Odisha come into the picture as hosts? Guwahati and Lucknow were the two probable venues discussed for a long time…
From our point of view, Hockey India requested that (since) India has to host, if it can be done in Bhubaneswar. Even though it is a short period of time (before the tournament begins on November 24), since we have the infrastructure and everything in place, it’s not a problem. So our honorable chief minister agreed immediately once the proposal came.
As you said it’s short notice, what are going to be your biggest challenges?
Actually the main challenge is the pandemic period. Even though currently the (Covid) numbers are low, it’s an uncertain period. We need to also undertake certain upgrades and repairs in the stadium. We are just hoping that it will all be done in time, and there should not be any problem.
CM @Naveen_Odisha has announced that Kalinga Stadium, #Bhubaneswar will be hosting the @FIH_Hockey Junior Men’s… https://t.co/jOAYpFP7qm
— CMO Odisha (@CMO_Odisha) 1632410360000
Do you see spectators being permitted inside the Kalinga Stadium for the tournament?
We hope that the pandemic condition allows crowds to be permitted. It’s almost like two years since any major tournaments have happened here. So the people of Bhubaneswar and Odisha are also looking forward to some kind of diversion from this pandemic, so that we can again get back to sports. We will take a call sometime in mid of next month (October).
What are the current Covid-related restrictions in Odisha related to organisation of sports events?
At the moment, sports events are allowed but without spectators. That is the current status. In fact, the kho-kho junior boys and girls nationals are currently going on. More than 700 players are here. So the events are allowed but with all Covid protocols. All of them are regularly checked and have RT-PCR tests. All those things are there, but spectators are not allowed at this stage. Let’s hope the situation improves, vaccination levels improve, so that we will be in a position to allow crowds also (at sports events). But it all depends on how the situation evolves.
All eyes on the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup Bhubaneswar 2021. I wish the Junior Team best of luck. 🏑… https://t.co/yK6REss1xA
— Manpreet Singh (@manpreetpawar07) 1632409275000
The government must have earmarked a budget for the tournament. Can you share those figures?
It will be difficult to do (that) at this stage. It’s still under process.
There will be teams and support staff travelling from 15 different countries. Will some of them need to quarantine based on the Covid situation in the region they travel from?
The teams are managed by Hockey India; they will be in a better position to answer that. There are protocols in place. It (directives) come from the Government of India, whatever it defines for the country in terms of these protocols. That liasoning is usually done by the Hockey India team.
You all were waiting for this picture, isn’t it? 🤭We are as excited as you are! Can’t wait to get started. 🤩Aft… https://t.co/7RI9ZnUZVk
— Odisha Sports (@sports_odisha) 1632408770000
There will also be Pakistan among the 15 teams travelling to India. Do you see any problems arising related to their visit?
All these things have happened so quickly that we haven’t had the time to go into details of it, but usually these are the matters which Hockey India takes care of, along with the union ministries, and they liaison with the other agencies.
Do you expect the Tokyo bronze to spur renewed enthusiasm among hockey fans in Bhubaneswar, particularly if they are allowed inside the stadium?
Absolutely. There is no doubt about it. This time, in the next World Cup (2023), it will be very difficult to manage tickets for India matches. There will be so much demand. So it’s now our biggest headache. Hockey is now again in the public eye. That’s good news, but for organisers it can be a nightmare (smiles).