Uncharacteristically, I watched a lot of the London Olympics. Catalyzed by the success of the British bike racing team at the Tour de France, I was curious to see how they would do at the Olympics in their home country. Thanks to a free app, I was able to watch many events live on my iPad. Here is the view of my breakfast table one day, with three cyber devices operating simultaneously.
Normally I don't watch people throwing odd-shaped, heavy and/or pointed objects, jumping over things, or running very fast in circles. But a local guy, Ashton Eaton, was competing in the decathlon, and was a favorite to win. Not that I know Ashton, but he seemed like such a nice kid, and sure enough, he won. Bend went Ashton Eaton crazy, before, during and after the games. A huge crowd gathered at a downtown theatre to watch the final decathlon events live on the big screen. School reader boards, tee shirt stores, dry cleaners, grocery stores and sandwich shops boasted signs saying 'Bend Loves Ashton Eaton'. And after the games were over and all the appearances on national tv, someone here in town came up with the idea of having a welcome home parade for Ashton.
For various reasons, Bend is the home of a number of other past Olympians, many of whom participated in nordic skiing, but also in track & field and other events. They too were invited to join the parade, with a few short speeches planned for the end of the parade route.
My sweetheart and I couldn't resist being part of such a hero's welcome, and along with several thousand other people, we walked downtown Sunday afternoon to watch the parade. I don't know when I've seen this many people downtown, certainly not for the annual Christmas parade or the 4th of July parade
First there were policemen on motorcycles,
Some really nice signs
At the end of the parade, he waded through the huge crowd and vaulted up onto the dais below the theatre marquee
There's something about the Olympics, isn't there? It's not a world championship or, for the vast majority of the athletes, even the medalists, it doesn't lead to a lucrative career in sports or monetary payback or endorsements. 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years later, Olympians look back and most of them, having gone on to live quite ordinary lives in many cases, must reflect that in the end, they did it for themselves.