V. Karthikeyan Pandian, IAS officer and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s aide, to receive President’s Award of the International Hockey Federation

Published : May 23, 2021 17:40 IST

V. Karthikeyan Pandian (centre) with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik (right) on the occasion of announcing the 2023 Hockey World Cup. Photo: By Special Arrangement

Interacting with the Indian hockey team during the 2018 Hockey World Cup in Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar. Photo: By Special Arrangement

With the students of the Sports Hostel. Photo: By Special Arrangement

A turning point in Odisha’s sports history came when the State accepted the challenge to organise the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships within a short span of 90 days. The infrastructure of Kalinga Stadium was upgraded at short notice.

The event was to be held at Ranchi in Jharkhand. The authorities there, however, withdrew at a late stage. The Athletic Federation of India then approached various States and Odisha rose to the challenge and organised the event successfully. More than 1,300 athletes and officials participated from across Asia and, for the first time, India emerged as the top nation in the medals tally.

Odisha took a huge risk as the event was to be held during the rainy season in July. In spite of all odds, V. Karthikeyan Pandian, a 2000-batch Odisha Cadre IAS officer, was convinced that the State could deliver the event in time.

Pandian has been serving as the trusted lieutenant of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as his Private Secretary since 2011 and spearheading Patnaik’s vision to transform the State in all fields. He has been the main strategist behind Odisha being recognised as a major destination for sports in India by using the sociology of sports as an instrument of change.

Odisha, which hosted the Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018 successfully, has hosted several major sports events and established centres of high performance in various sports disciplines in the last four years. Odisha has again been selected as the venue for the 2023 Men’s Hockey World Cup. The State is building India’s largest hockey stadium in Rourkela for the event.

The State, which was the only one to have its own team in the Hockey Premier League, continues to be the sponsor of India’s national men’s and women’s hockey teams since 2018. It also supports the national-level football teams—Under 19 (Indian Arrows) and Under-15 boys and the Indian rugby team as well. It is also the only State to provide support for a football club, Odisha FC in the Indian Super League.

Acknowledging Pandian’s outstanding contribution and services to hockey, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) conferred its prestigious President’s Award on him during the 47th FIH Congress on May 22.

Pandian’s keen interest in sports and athletics can be traced to his school days. He studied in a sports school, stayed in a sports hostel and was a middle distance runner. Probably he is the only civil servant to receive this recognition from an international hockey body.

As probationer in Keonjhar district in 2001, Pandian gained first-hand experience of the status of sports hostels. Disappointed to see the condition of the students in the sports hostel, he requested the Collector for support and, with a sanction of Rs.50,000 from the Red Cross Society, arranged for basic facilities and sports equipment.

His journey with hockey started from Rourkela in Sundargarh district where he was posted as Additional District Magistrate. Looking at the condition of the hockey students living in asbestos sheds in Panposh hostel, he coordinated the construction of a new hostel campus and a new hockey turf.

In recognition of Rourkela’s contributions to Indian Hockey, Pandian got one of the prominent city junctions named as Hockey Square. Sudarshan Sahoo, the well-known sculptor, was commissioned to sculpt a hockey stick and ball and it was installed at the square.

As Collector of Mayurbhanj in 2005-07, he transformed the sports hostel into a modern facility. When on official tours to various parts of the district, his vehicle always had volleyballs and footballs. Whenever he used to see children or youth playing in the field, he would stop and interact with them for a while and gift them with a volleyball or football.

As congratulatory messages poured in on social media platforms, Pandian told Frontline on May 23 that the “Indian national anthem will play sooner than later in Olympic podium and Odisha would have contributed substantially for that”.

He added; “Odisha is already recognised as the sports capital of India and our aim would be to make it an international destination for all major sports. We seriously follow the mantra of our beloved Chief Minister that investment in sports is investment in youth and that is investing in future.”

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