I love to roam the Ekamra Kshetra’s neat and airy roads…especially the Sachivalaya Marg where you can always smell the air and get a hint of any political broth cooking. This road of course has seen a transformation over the years: one-way, barricades that force even me to take a detour to cross it, newly flourishing trees (which am sure will be cut down in few years to widen the road further), shining corporate-sponsored signposts, neon lights…the Works!
The last few weeks, strolling down the road has made me learn that something grand, earth-shattering, path-breaking is gonna happen. The Capital City is going to host the 16-team Men’s Hockey World Cup (HWC), for the first time ever in these parts. Apparently, this would firmly establish the land on the horizon of sports and change the fortune of its people. And for this the State Govt is leaving no stone unturned, no effort spared and no tax money thrifted to make this a gala success.
And the leadership has not been lacking to sell lofty dreams to the people, dazed by the glitz and glamour this high profile event. “2018 will be India’s year for Hockey. The Indian Hockey Team will emerge champions of the tournament.” Sold on a heavy dosage of party patriotism and grandeur of the gala event, the grassroots cadre is out to spread the word that credit for it, in its entirety goes to the Queen.
And it has been a carefully cultivated blueprint her Coterie has scripted she has been following. If you see 2018 in retrospect, you’d marvel at the build-up for the event and her persona…well in time for the next year’s hustings.
Early in the year, the Queendom decided to sponsor the country’s Hockey Team-- junior and senior, men and women—for five years, apparently at a cost of Rs 150 cr. The land, which already had earned the sobriquet ‘Second Cradle of Hockey’, with an erstwhile Captain and leading Olympics and international players coming from one of its backward districts, hoped to cement its position as the revival ground of the game, and the Queen, its savior. So if it cost money, let it.
Months prior to the gala events, buses painted in the HWC colours were prowling the streets of some of the leading metropolis in the world—London, Munich & Sydney. Apparently, the move would boost two goals, to create awareness of the event and to project the land as a tourist destination. “Odisha by Morning, Hockey by Evening,” so the banners read. The fact that it cost a hefty spend of $$$ for the marketing blitz and these cities lacked direct flights to the hosting city were conveniently forgotten.
If you rack your brains a little, it was not long past that the Queen suddenly made a proposal that Hockey be made the National Game. The populace and the Netiratti, who apparently had a faint and false presumption that Hockey was already the National Game (it is NOT), looked up and took notice. After all, it still commands a wide following after Cricket, and the eyeballs a hockey game of Ind-Pak generates is legion. “WHOA…What a smart person!!! Slow Claps.”
Brownies gained…the Queen suddenly propped up on Primetime TV and in a popular show with the Grand Baap of Bollywood let it know that she also played hockey. And played the game with all fervor in her school. Light…Camera…Action and Applause! The stage was set and the event had captured popular imagination.
With the Queen has been happy to wave to the gallery and pose before a hockey goalpost defending, her Coterie in the hallowed chambers of the Third Floor has apparently got a free hand in spending the funds. From what I smell, this seems like a scam, in lines of CWG 2010, or much grander. And the gullible simple citizenry, consuming the communion of Re 1 rice and Odia Pride, cheers on.
Much has to be said about the alacrity the City and the bureaucracy is showing—to justify the Capital’s Smart City tag and to make this event a success. But no official word on the expenditure is forthcoming. The lips are as tightly pursed as the Govt is when issuing a refund. Roads are tarred, walls painted with murals by international artists (even on perfectly good ones) and pathways lined with fancy flowering plants borrowed from nurseries. There will be huge LCDs put up at all districts and five locations in city for folks and cattle to watch the event free.
With such high stakes, the Queen has pulled all strings to be in the limelight. In a thinly veiled drama the Bollywood deity ESSARR Kahn replied to the Male Hockey Team that his heart beats for hockey and when the Queen politely prodded if he will grace the host city, the Adonis almost kneeled down and said yes. That he was hired to star in a promo video with famed composer Rozaman, again at an undisclosed sum, is another matter. There are two grand events, one at the host city on 27th and another in the sister city on 28th with the duo leading from the front to mark the inaugural ceremony.
So on Nov 27 evening, it was THE extravaganza of pomp and glamour at the Host City venue, with the Queen parroting her practised lines and the ESSAR Kahn spreading his arms and dhak-dhak lady Mayuri gyrating and Rozeman crooning, and Odia pride, ecstatic that something is happening soared thro the roof singing praises of the Queen.
With the event days away, the first chinks in armour started showing. On Nov 15 irate fans vandalized the counters of the stadium where tickets for opening of the show were supposed to be sold but ran out within minutes. On Nov 20, the website selling online tickets for the same malfunctioned leaving fans disappointed. Miffed over a report in a local channel, the arrogant secretary of the department concerned showed the door to the TV journalist, showing the Devil-May-Care attitude the babus have while pushing ahead with the event
So what happens to the land after the Grand Show of Hockey is over?…Will the city be the next Sports Capital? Will it change the fortune of its people? These are the million dollar questions.
The answer lies in the Game itself; for all its pretentions of grandeur and raw power, the hockey stick resembles a Dog’s Tail…implying things will return to as before…to a situation of poverty, hopelessness and squalor....