India take on South Africa in their opening game
Bhuwaneswar, November 27: Hockey World Cup 2018 was officially declared open by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in a glitzy opening ceremony at the Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday.
Welcoming players from 16 international teams, Patnaik said people of Odisha have been looking forward to hosting the sports extravaganza. “I welcome all the international hockey teams, the distinguished delegates and the hockey officials to Odisha. You’re the guests of 45 million Odia people,” he said.
The prominent faces on stage – besides the players themselves – were Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit.
While Shah Rukh too welcomed players and officials, Madhuri delivered a scintillating dance performance.
The matches in the tournament will begin from November 29 with the final on December 16. The competing teams will play in four pools with the defending champions Australia going in as firm favourites.
Host India has won the tournament only once – back in 1975.
The Odisha government had declared a holiday across the state after 1.30 pm on Tuesday, in view of the opening ceremony. All banks, financial institutions, government offices and educational institutions were asked to remain shut.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter and said, “A warm welcome and best wishes to all teams participating in the Hockey Men’s World Cup 2018, being held in Odisha. I am sure this tournament will be a treat for sports lovers and will also be an opportunity to discover India’s and especially Odisha’s culture.
Armed with a sense of togetherness, self-belief and a strong crowd backing them every moment, India will seek to end 43 years of hurt when they begin the Hockey World Cup campaign against South Africa here on Wednesday.
The hosts’ Pool C encounter at the Kalinga Stadium will be the showpiece event’s second game.
Eight-time Olympic champions India’s only glory at the World Cup came way back in 1975 when Ajit Pal Singh and his men created history for the past masters of the game.
Since then India has failed to match the standards of the Europeans – Netherlands, Germany and Australia, who have been ruling the game for over four decades now.
In the last 10 editions since its maiden triumph in 1975, India’s best performance was a fifth-place finish at the 1982 edition in Mumbai (then Bombay). (Agencies)