The Kalinga Hockey Stadium echoed with 'Bande Utkala Janani on Saturday as prominent sportspersons of Odisha and renowned artists from the Odia film industry united in solidarity at the stadium and passionately sang the anthem to honour COVID-19 warriors.

Sports legends including Padmashree Dilip Kumar Tirkey, Anuradha Biswal, Shradhanjali Samantray, Debasis Mohanty, Dutee Chand, Amiya Mallick, Pramod Bhagat, Padmini Rout, Valena Valentina, along with renowned singers Mahaprasad Kar and Nazia Alam, and cine stars Archita Sahoo and Bhumika Dash amongst others came together in this congregation organised by Department of Sports and Youth Services.

Health workers cheering
IANS photos

Sportsmen gather to acknowledge frontline workers in Orissa

The event was to honour Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's appeal to the Odia community across the world to acknowledge the sacrifices of the COVID-19 warriors. Minister for Sports and Youth Services Tusharkanti Behera, Secretary Sports Vishal K. Dev, Director Sports R. Vineel Krishna, officials from the Sports Department, and young athletes from the state sports fraternity participated in this to instil and inspire a sense of pride and commitment to the cause. The gathering followed appropriate social distancing and related protocols.

"Kalinga Hockey Stadium, that had its packed galleries roar and cheer for the players of the FIH Pro League on the Hockey turf earlier this year, on Saturday, echoed in unison for our front line warriors who have relentlessly fought over the last few months risking their lives to keep the public safe from the corona pandemic," the Odisha government press release stated.

G Lakshmanan
Lakshmanan celebrates his win on Thursday at the Kalinga StadiumDIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images

"Our stadium that has always celebrated the spirit of sports and sportspersons, today, stood in solidarity with our front line warriors who have ensured that our families are safe while they battle the virus that adversely affected the citizens worldwide," Sports Minister Tusharkanti Behera was quoted as saying in the statement.

"Here in Odisha too, situations could have snowballed if not for our corona warriors, across sectors. My heartfelt thank you to each one of them," he added. 

Expressing his deepest gratitude, Hockey legend Tirkey said, "I urge everyone gathered here and those watching us from their home, to act responsibly, follow guidelines like wearing a mask and social distancing to stay safe and allowing our front line workers to stay safe. This would be our biggest contribution to them."