The Asian Athletics Championships, the premier track and field event in the continent, will mark a return to India when Odisha’s capital city of Bhubaneshwar hosts the 22nd edition of the meet from July 6-9, 2017, bringing together nearly 1000 athletes from 45 countries, participating in 42 different disciplines during the four-day extravaganza. The AAC, organized by the Asian Athletics Association with the help of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), will also act as a qualifying event for next year’s IAAF World Championships, to be held in London.
Earlier editions of the AAC held in India were New Delhi (1989) and Pune (2013), making Bhubaneshwar the third Indian city to host one of the flagship athletics events in Asia, after Ranchi pulled out as the host city at the last minute. Bhubaneshwar, one of the hubs of athletics in the country, stepped in with 90 days to go.
With nearly 1000 participants, the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships will also see the largest contingent of athletes in the competition’s history, doubling the 497 athletes from 40 nations that took part in the last edition held in Wuhan, China in 2015.
The multi-purpose Kalinga Stadium, which will also host the Hockey World Cup next year, is being transformed to become a world-class track and field facility, meeting all the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) standards. Along with a newly-laid all-weather synthetic track equipped with floodlights, a state-of-the-art warm-up area has also been constructed to make it a world-class training facility in the span of a little over two months.
The Government of Odisha has left no stone unturned to make this event a reality, putting together an Asian Athletics Championship in a record time of 90 days, highlighting the state’s commitment to promote sports, tourism and industry.
Commenting on the Odisha’s moment of pride, Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri Naveen Pattnaik said: “Odisha has come a long way to become one of the most progressive states in the country. This transformation is well recognized by our people, who have repeatedly reposed their faith in the State. Odia athletes have done exceptionally well in recent times. Besides athletics, our players are shining in other disciplines like Hockey and Weightlifting too. The Asian Athletics Championships 2017 will offer great exposure to Odia athletes who will be competing with some of the best sportspersons in the world. This mega event will definitely help in raising the profile of the state in the field of sports.
Mr. Vishal Kumar Dev (IAS), Commissioner cum Secretary – Sports, Government of Odisha said: “The Asian Athletics Championships will help take athletics in the state to a higher level. The facility up gradation at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, which is now equipped with an all-new synthetic track and world-class training facility, will go a long way in creating the planned High-Performance Academy to nurture future champions. Despite the acute paucity of time, we are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the event is a grand success.”
The occasion of Odisha hosting the AAC is also a feeling of pride for the elite athletes hailing from the state, as it will see some of the top athletes from India and all of Asia participating in this prestigious event.
Olympian Dutee Chand, who won gold at the recently concluded Federation Cup Senior National Athletics Meet and the current national champion in the women’s 100 metres, said: “Kalinga Stadium is my nursery. I’m elated to see the Asian Athletics Championships held in my Odisha. I will run on the tracks at the place where I started my career from.”
Ace sprinter and fellow Olympian Srabani Nanda said: “I am very happy that an international athletics event like the Asian Championships is happening in my state of Odisha. I am looking forward to it. It will motivate athletes in Odisha and the youth to take up sports. I’m also from Sports Hostel in Bhubaneswar. We always wanted a synthetic training track for training and now it is made. It will help athletes train better.”
Amiya Kumar Mallick, national record holder in the men’s 100 metres, said: “It’s an amazing feeling to host the Asian Athletics Championships (in Bhubaneshwar). Everyone is working round the clock to put on a good show.I am highly motivated and working hard to compete and clock the best timing in my event at the AAC.”