Misha and family watch lelo in Shukhuti

President Saakashvili joins a crowd in the middle of a Shukhuti street where the ancient game of lelo is about to begin; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Crowd gathers in the middle of the street for the start of lelo; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of Georgia, watched the start of the lelo game with his wife, younger son, and government members. About 300 people played the ancient game, and hundreds of people watched.

I had been waiting by the stage, for about 45 minutes, in order to photograph Misha, but then the crowd began to gather in the street for the start of lelo, so I gave up on the idea of photographing Georgia’s president. Instead, I climbed a ladder to the roof of the bus stop, where I was confident I could get an overview of the start of the game. To my surprise, Misha did not address the crowd from the stage. He walked into the middle of the crowd in the middle of the street.

Earlier a member of the president’s security team had approached me. Nini Chakvetadze translated and I learned that the plain-clothed guard did not want me to photograph the convoy of vehicles that was going to transport Saakashvili. I said OK and then asked if I could photograph the President. The guard said, yes. So I assured the guard I was far more interested in photographing the President than some cars with heavily tinted windows.

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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