New Delhi: The scenes outside the international airport were chaotic. The sound deafening as bands, dholaks and songs pierced through the air.
There were scores of people waiting both inside and outside to welcome India’s athletes from Tokyo on Monday.
It was a grand yet chaotic reception at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
As soon as the athletes emerged from the gate, supporters and media mobbed the players and gave security personnel nightmares as they struggled to guide the players to their cars.
The crowd slowly started swelling from an hour before the scheduled flight arrival. There was a massive traffic jam in front of the airport.
Fans and family from native villages, people with placards, music bands, people with dhols all created a carnival-esque atmosphere but social distancing and wearing masks went for a toss.
The athletics contingent was the first to arrive and they were felicitated by a Sports Authority of India (SAI) delegation headed by DG Sandeep Pradhan, who was accompanied by Athletics Federation of India head Adille Sumariwala.
Political leaders from various parties were also not to be left behind as they also arrived to congratulate the medal winners.
The hockey teams and wrestlers were next to disembark and slowly the frenzy reached chaotic levels. All sportspersons were mobbed as soon as they stepped out of the gate.
Despite heavy security and barricades, the crowd could not get enough of their new heroes as they pressed forward to touch the players or get a selfie. Social distancing went for a toss.
The men’s and women’s hockey teams, grapplers, the athletics contingent all were then escorted to Hotel Ashoka, where the Sports Minister Anurag Thakur then went on felicitate the medal winners.
The hotel was decked up in bright colours with the Olympic rings present as well. Special meals have been prepared to honour India’s sporting heroes post the function.
The Sports Minister not only congratulated all medal winners but also went on to praise the performances of the women’s hockey team which finished fourth as well as young golfer Aditi Ashok who narrowly missed out on a medal.
Other notable mentions from the minister included those of first female sailor from India to qualify for the Olympics — Nethra Kumanan, first Indian fencer from India to make it to the Olympics — Bhavani Devi, the best place achieved by an Indian in Equestrian eventing, Fouaad Mirza, the best-ever finish for Indian rowers as well as the national and Asian records set by steeplechase exponent Avinash Sable and the men’s 4×400 relay team.
The cynosure of all eyes Neeraj Chopra dedicated his gold medal to the country and mentioned the pain he felt the next day after creating history.
“I knew I had done something special, actually I thought I had achieved my personal best. The throw had gone really well,” Chopra said.
“The next day my body felt how special it was with all the pain but it was worth it. This medal is for the entire country,” he said.