For the past fortnight, the Biju Patnaik International airport in Bhubaneswar has been buzzing with activity.
It started with the Hockey World Cup trophy tour on Christmas last month, when a troupe of traditional artists played the drums and instruments, much to the surprise of the onlookers. It was followed by the arrival of the India team two days later.
From January onwards, the other teams started trickling in one after the other – sometimes as many as seven teams arriving on a single day.
“It is not a lot of work, but it is our responsibility. Our state is hosting the World Cup and it is our duty to make them feel comfortable. I do important work and take a lot of pride in it,” says Rabindra Rout, who drives the teams in the air-conditioned coaches from the airport to the stadium.
A hoarding greets the players at Bhubaneswar airport
This isn’t the first time he is ferrying the teams around. Unable to recall the name of the tournament, he hints at the Pro League held last year, where he was also on duty.
“Whenever I am asked to help in the sports sector, I readily accept the offer. I see this as my contribution to the World Cup,” says Rout, who is an employee of Odisha State Road Transport Corporation (OSRTC).
At the centre of affairs, are also students of Government College of Physical Education, who have been roped in for the tournament.
“We have been divided into groups and given responsibilities accordingly. Six of us stay at the airport and ensure smooth loading of the players’ luggage on their arrival and their travel. Once all the teams arrive, we will be re-assigned the role. For instance, I will be deployed at the stadium,” says Alekha Sethi, who is a Kabaddi player and is volunteering for the Hockey World Cup.
A volunteer helps the South Korean team with their luggage upon their arrival in Bhubaneswar
For now, there are around 170 volunteers who will be rendering their services in the World Cup and the number might go up, officials in the Sports department say.
The Hockey World Cup is scheduled to start on January 13 and the matches will be held in both Bhubaneswar and Rourkela on the first day.