Odisha will continue to sponsor Indian hockey teams for another 10 years, said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the state-level felicitation programme of players on Tuesday. Players were also awarded Rs 10 lakh each and support staff members were given Rs 5 lakh each at the event.
The Odisha government is the official sponsor of the Indian hockey teams since 2018. As a token of appreciation, each team gifted a framed Jersey autographed by the players to Patnaik.
A resolute Indian men's hockey team rewrote history in Tokyo as it claimed an Olympic medal after 41 years, defeating a plucky Germany 5-4 to win the bronze in an edge-of-the-seat play-off match.
The women's team also reached their first-ever Olympic semi-final after the side stunned World No.2 Australia 1-0. After losing to Argentina in the semis, the Rani Rampal-led side put in a spirited performance in the bronze medal match against Great Britain but fell short of their first-ever Olympic medal.
"Glad to felicitate the Indian Women’s and Men's Hockey teams after their historic feat in #Tokyo2020. Proud of the Hockey Olympians for their achievement. May the remarkable journey inspire many others to embrace sports and bring laurels for the country," wrote Patnaik on Twitter.
"We will continue our partnership with Hockey India. Odisha will support the Indian Hockey teams for 10 more years. This will herald a new era of Indian hockey and bring glory to the nation," the Chief Minister said at the event.
"It was a deeply emotional moment for India to witness the revival of hockey. For nearly four decades, hockey fans were yearning to see India grab a medal at the Olympics. The way the entire country was glued to the television screens to watch the hockey teams' matches, it is quite evident that there is something more to hockey than just sports.
"In the backdrop of the Covid pandemic, it is remarkable that our teams worked so hard in spite of all the challenges and emerged victorious. At times of such crisis, the teams brought smiles on the faces of crores of Indians. We all should be thankful to our boys and girls," he further said.
The President of the Indian Olympic Association, Narinder Batra, who has played a key role in the revival of hockey in India, was also felicitated by the Chief Minister on the occasion. He also felicitated Hockey India President Gyanendro Ningombam, Secretary-General Rajinder Singh, CEO Elena Norman and the entire Hockey India staff and awarded Rs 50 lakh to the federation.
PR Sreejesh, the goalkeeper of the Indian men's hockey team, thanked the Odisha CM as he wrote, "10 more years …… wow !! Odisha always surprise us…Thank you very much Naveen Patnaik sir @Naveen_Odisha for extending the sponsorship."
Earlier in the day, both the teams received a rousing welcome on their arrival at the Bhubaneswar airport.
The state capital was decorated to welcome the Olympic heroes with posters, banners and hoarding put up on both sides of the roads between the airport and their hotel.
The players were welcomed by blowing conch shells, garlands and tika. Odisha's traditional and folk dance groups performed on the road to welcome the heroes of the Tokyo showpiece. The people of Bhubaneswar also lined up on the roadside to welcome the hockey stars.