From Beijing to Baltimore: Maryland Olympic Heroes Return Home
The audience atmosphere was similar to that of a large family reunion. Picnics, blankets, lawn chairs, fried chicken and children dancing or playing football dotted the green grassy landscape overlooking the water. (Photo: Dave Schmidt)
A Beijing flair spiced the pre-show with dragon dancers, singers and ancient exercises. (Photo: Dave Schmidt)
Magical is the only way to describe the crowd, and the mood of that split second when the Olympic great, Michael Phelps himself, stepped out onto the stage to see everyone. (Photo: Dave Schmidt)
Michael Phelps best summarized it with his first words, "There is no better place to be than right here in Baltimore!" (Photo: Dave Schmidt)
The night truly was a golden experience, from Beijing to Baltimore, it was a magical Maryland moment in history. (Photo: Dave Schmidt)
10/05/2008 7:07 PM ET
BALTIMORE - As the sparkling rockets of red, white and blue glare in the late night sky, there was a sense of unmistakable pride. Pride of country, pride of state and pride for our very own that returned to paint the town gold, and Olympic gold.
Following a parade through Michael Phelps' hometown of Towson, 10 to 15,000 packed themselves into the open lawns of the historic and most appropriate Fort McHenry, the birthplace of our National Anthem, to honor and celebrate the performances of Maryland Olympians, Paraolympians and Special Olympians.
As the chest pounding firework bombs were bursting in air, so were the chests pounding with joyful and adoring hearts. "Phelps Phan" sings, bedecked Olympic t-shirts, and mini-American flags gave proof through the night that Maryland certainly loves their own.
Stripes and bright stars were gallantly streaming as far as the eye could see which would have certainly brought a tear to the eye of the author who penned our national anthem, Francis Scott Key.
Throughout the afternoon and into the early evening before dusk, early attendees were entertained with various American and Chinese performances. A Beijing flair spiced the pre-show with dragon dancers, singers and ancient exercises.
The audience atmosphere was similar to that of a large family reunion. Picnics, blankets, lawnchairs, fried chicken and children dancing or playing football dotted the green grassy landscape overlooking the water. Warm and friendly was the nature of all as they prepared to welcome home their own.
A humble celebration for humble Olympians. After months on the road with interviews and appearances from Beijing to New York and California, a down-home welcome back party seemed to be exactly what was in order.
The sun slowly began to set on an Olympic golden day weatherwise, almost specially ordered for the occasion. The soft wind from the water drifted across the fort, flowing the American flag, carrying with it the sounds of the drum and fife as revolutionary clad men stood on the hill.
It took onlookers back in a spiritual way. Breaking the calm before the storm were the rumbles of, not thunder, but Black Hawk helicopters as they made a flyover and screams of anxious fans as they ran to the fence, hoping to catch just a lightning quick glimpse of their hero. The swirls of excitement built as the U.S. Naval Academy concert band blasted the Olympic theme song.
A magical moment is the only way to describe each of the eight record breaking competitions he won. Magical is the only way to describe the crowd, and the mood of that split second when the Olympic great, Michael Phelps himself, stepped out onto the stage to see everyone.
It was a magical Maryland that Saturday night as the celebration unfolded.
Michael Phelps best summarized it with his first words, "There is no better place to be than right here in Baltimore!"
As the Star Spangled Banner was played one could not help but remember each time Michael swam ahead of the pack, broke yet another world record and had the ultimate honor of standing at the top of the podium with his hand on his heart, a smile on his face, and a gold medal around his neck as the American flag was hoisted higher than all others.
The governor along with other dignitaries spoke about the excitement Marylanders had from their homes as they watched their own achieve greatness, and they honored the parents, families, and friends that supported them and made them into the heroes they are today. Phelps with his mom, Debbie, by his side throughout the ceremony received the announcement that a Baltimore County Olympic Park would be designated to recognize all Maryland Olympians with Michael's name listed first.
The night ended with all the Olympians standing as one on stage as an outpouring of congratulations were bestowed upon them with sparkles of red, white, and blue glitter which showered down from a finishing fireworks display. At the press event following the ceremony, Michael admitted that he is glad to get back so he can return to some sense of normalcy. Such as sleeping in, taking care of his dog, cleaning his apartment and eager to get back to training for his final Olympic appearance at London in 2012.
As a special note to the Eastern Shore, he mentioned that the first night he came back to Maryland from his nationwide appearances, he settled down with his friends to indulge in some Maryland steamed crabs which he had been looking forward to enjoying for quite awhile.
The night truly was a golden experience, from Beijing to Baltimore, it was a magical Maryland moment in history.