A look inside the making of the Rourkela’s Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in Odisha, which hosted the Men’s Hockey World Cup and is the largest seated hockey stadium in the world.
After hosting the spectacular FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in 2018 in Bhubaneswar at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, Odisha has once again set records by not only hosting the consecutive edition of the Men’s Hockey World Cup in 2023, but also at two venues, Bhubaneswar and Rourkela.
To ensure this World Cup was bigger and better and catered to a large number of Hockey fans, a new world class stadium was constructed in Rourkela — the Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium. It was a tribute to the hockey heartland of Odisha as well as Indian hockey players.
Named after tribal leader and legendary freedom fighter Birsa Munda, the stadium has officially entered the Gunnies Book of Records as the largest seated hockey stadium in the world with a total seating capacity of 20,011. It also features accessible seats so no one remains barred from enjoying a good game of hockey at this grand stadium.
The Men’s Hockey World Cup that was held from 13 to 29 January, featured the top 16 teams of the world including Australia, Argentina, France, South Africa, Belgium, Germany, Korea, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Malaysia, Chile, India, England, Spain, and Wales. During this period the players, officials and fans had a memorable experience, especially at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium, with most returning as brand ambassadors for Odisha.
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Story behind World’s Largest Seated Hockey Stadium
In India, hockey is often perceived as the national sport due to its historical significance. Now, the sport could become the pulse of the nation. Here’s the story behind the Birsa Munda Hockey stadium.
In 2021, the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik-led government allocated 15 acres of land within the Biju Patnaik University of Technology Campus in Rourkela and handed the responsibility of construction to the Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation.
Sundargarh was a natural choice to build the largest seated stadium here, having been the cradle of hockey and producing over 60 international players and Olympians including the legendary Dilip Tirkey, Prabodh Tirkey, Lazarus Barla, Deep Grace Ekka, and Amit Rohidas, to name a few,
It is believed that hockey was introduced in Sundargarh by European missionaries who came to the tribal district in the 1860s. More than a century later, the sport has seeped into the cultural identity of the district, which is home to several tribes such as the Orams, the Kharia, the Munda, and the Bhuniya communities. Even the elderly in the tribal villages play hockey with the same enthusiasm as the youth.
“Rourkela Sundargarh has a long history with hockey. We created the largest seated stadium in the world as a gift to the hockey-loving population of the country and the state,” says VK Pandian, Secretary (5T) to the Chief Minister. He says Sundargarh is a place where children would grow up learning to walk using a hockey stick, firmly cementing hockey as an integral part of its culture.
The stadium was built over a span of 15 months after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik laid the foundation stone in 2021. The stadium was inaugurated on 5 January 2023, a week before the Hockey World Cup. It is estimated that the cost of building the Rourkela stadium is Rs 261 crore.
Today, Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium stands tall in all its grandeur and pride, having given the fans a lifetime of memories. It was built amid the adversities of the COVID-19 pandemic and challenging weather conditions including the heat conditions, extended monsoons, cyclones etc.
The situation which was further complicated by the disruption in global manufacturing and supply chains due to COVID and the Russia-Ukraine war. Vaccination camps were set up and the safety of workers was ensured.
Teams worked tirelessly and seamlessly on a mission mode to achieve the unthinkable. The teams also ensured that the architecture of the stadium was developed in a way that every seat had an uninterrupted view. It was built considering easy accessibility for people with disabilities. No aspect was overlooked.
The stadium complex features a Hockey Practice Centre, world class amenities, a World Cup Village with 225 rooms, which was also built in record nine months, and collectively offers a holistic experience to the participating teams.
New roads were built, old roads were upgraded, more than 25 lakh trees were planted in the Rourkela city. From murals and statues as tributes to hockey legends, to a monument to commemorate hockey made entirely out of scrap metal the city had a lot to boast.
Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium, its campus, and Rourkela, have become a matter of great pride for Odisha. The development serves as inspiration for the next generation, and is expected to inspire them to engage with the sport.
Edited by Divya Sethu