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Viswanathan Anand in Chennai

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Viswanathan Anand’s victorious return to his hometown was almost an exercise in vain for the association that organised his welcome at the airport late on Thursday night.

The chess champion, who emerged from the arrival lounge to a rousing salute stirred up by a local school band, appeared to be caught on ‘Ground Zero’ of a crowd explosion and was soon drowned in hordes of hangers-on wanting to catch a glimpse of him.

“I still have not shaken hands with Anand because there were so many people surrounding him,” said Tamil Nadu State Chess Association general secretary K. Muralimohan.

Massive turnout

Denied access to Vishy by the swarms of media and security personnel that trapped him in an impenetrable cordon seconds after his arrival, Mr. Muralimohan said he had not anticipated such a large turnout considering the late hour of the flight.

“I don’t think there was any mismanagement, but this kind of reception is unprecedented,” he added.

Appearing a shade wary of the persistent jostling and several cameras that were thrust unceremoniously in his face, Anand said he was “more relieved than happy”, before the police managed to whisk him away from the prying gaze of lens and man.

India’s first International Master, Manuel Aaron, who was unable to sight Anand even momentarily, said his airport visit had been “worth nothing”.

“I couldn’t even spot him once and I certainly did not want to make my way into the crowd.

“It would be a better idea to organise a welcome party at a hotel instead of the airport where things can take a messy turn,” Aaron said.

Earlier, the scene, by and large, resembled a quasi-social occasion.

Festive atmosphere

Sweets exchanged hands, as did banners and bottles of beverage, as hundreds of students braved humidity and hunger and waited for their hero to come out.

“We were here by 10 p.m. to rehearse. It’s all right, we don’t mind doing it because Anand deserves all the accolades for his achievement,” said a cymbals-brandishing member of the Velammal High School band.

While sizable numbers indicated a rapidly growing popularity of the sport, the query of an excitable, cheering group of young men to a TV crew engaged in interviewing Aruna Anand imbued the proceedings with an alternative perspective.

“Excuse me,” asked one of the group, “but what is the name of the movie star who is being mobbed.”

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November 22, 2008 - Posted by | sports | , , , , ,

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