FIH confirms Birsa Munda Stadium world's largest all-seater hockey arena; lauds it as 'work of art'
The FIH's confirmation put the controversy surrounding the 21,000-capacity facility at rest after the Odisha government claimed it is the world's largest stadium.
According to the International Hockey Federation (FIH), the brand-new Birsa Munda Stadium is the largest field hockey-specific stadium worldwide and has been dubbed a "work of art."
After the Odisha government asserted that the 21,000-seat stadium was the largest in the world, the FIH's confirmation ended the debate surrounding the venue.
Odisha government officials asserted that the spectacular stadium honouring Indian tribal independence warrior Birsa Munda was the largest venue in terms of seating capacity following its inauguration.
Shankar Oram, a BJL MLA from Biramitrapur in the Sundergarh district, has countered that the stadium is not the biggest in the world, but rather the fourth-largest.
But according to the FIH, the modern arena outside of Rourkela, also known as the Steel City, is the biggest stadium for field hockey that can accommodate all spectators.
"This stadium is not only a work of art in terms of architecture but also the largest all-seater field hockey-specific arena in the world," the FIH said in an e-mail.
The stadium's World Cup matches kicked off on Friday, only a few days after it was officially opened, without having previously hosted any senior international competitions.
The international organisation declined to comment on the matter but insisted that it never had any doubts about the stadium's fitness for the World Cup.
"But in any case we were in permanent touch with Hockey India and Odisha regarding the organisation of the World Cup and never had any concerns regarding the readiness of the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela," FIH's senior communications manager Nicolas Maingot said.
Oram had claimed that the National Hockey Stadium in Pakistan's Lahore, with a capacity of 45,000 people, is the world's largest, followed by Chandigarh Hockey Stadium (30,000) and Weingart Stadium (multipurpose) in Los Angeles in the US (22,355). Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, which is hosting 24 matches of the World Cup, has a capacity of 15,000.
There has yet to be an official list of the world's largest hockey stadiums.
After England and Wales played the first-ever international match earlier in the day, a stadium packed to the rafters watched India defeat Spain in their opening Pool D match on Friday.
The Birsa Munda Stadium was erected for the World Cup games in a record-breaking 15 months. Twenty of the tournament's 44 matches will be played at the stadium.
On 35 acres of the 120-acre Biju Patnaik University of Technology campus on the outskirts of Rourkela, a 200-crore stadium has been constructed.
The World Cup Village, an accommodation with over 200 rooms that can house at least eight teams and star facilities served by Taj Group, is located in this unique stadium and is valued at Rs 80 crore.
Additionally, it contains a tunnel that connects the dressing room to the practise field next door, a separate fitness centre, and a swimming pool. The 16 competing teams' coaches and players are extremely complimentary of the venue.
(With inputs from PTI)