Monday Morning Musings

Posted on August 6, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with 8 comments

Rachel Boardman. Toronto, Ontario. Silver medallist 50 metre freestyle swimming

(Photo with permisssion)

 

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Special Olympics oath.

The greatest show on earth.

And one of the hottest.

Being a Catholic town, we prayed for good weather last week. Our prayers were answered except we forgot to ask that the temperature not be in the 30s with a high humidex!

With all due respect to the Barnum and Bailey circus, the recently completed National Special Olympics summer games held in Antigonish was the greatest show ever seen in these parts. It was the first time that this competition was held in a small town.

I was a volunteer , one of 1200, and also a spectator at the games. I had a front row seat at many events but also had an opportunity to observe the work being done in the background by the organizing committee. I spent a lot of time at St.F.X. University where all but two of the events were being held. Never have I witnessed so much enthusiasm and excitement with athletes, coaches, family, spectators and volunteers, with thousands crisscrossing the campus at all hours of the day and night. It was also quite a spectacle walking down Main Street and seeing so many new and smiling faces.

Smiles.

I can’t ever recall seeing so many happy faces and this may be the most important legacy of the games and the ultimate lesson learned from sharing time with our special Olympic athletes. These wonderful competitors from coast to coast to coast bring a joy of life that is infectious. Everywhere I went, I saw laughter, friendship and good sportsmanship in abundance.

I spent a few evenings in the grandstands at Oland Stadium watching some races. I sat amongst athletes from many provinces and territories. I listened to their easy banter. Of course, they were cheering for fellow teammates but what is always impressive at these games is that every athlete is urged on by fellow competitors. Runners, who were struggling at the end of a race and far away from the leaders, were cheered as heartily as the winner. “Winning at all cost” is not part of the Special Olympics ethos.

Special Olympic athletes are the real deal. They stand for everything that is good and decent in a fractured world. The athletes are honest, loving and caring and God only knows that society needs folks like these to lead us in troubled times.

Families.

I had an opportunity to chat with several athletes and their families. The pride shown by parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews towards their participant was overt and unsanitized. The Special Olympics movement has done so much to remove the stigmatism for people with intellectual challenges.

Volunteers.

It is a given that most amateur events cannot take place without volunteers. At times, it felt like every citizen of the town and county of Antigonish (and others from outside the area) had a role to play in these games. I saw very young volunteers, including my 10 year old granddaughter, roll up their sleeves and make a contribution. They came from every walk of life and no task was too menial. When things needed to be done, they got done. We all know well about the ills of social media but for an event like this, it was an indispensable tool to get the word out when help was required. I have never been more proud of my hometown.

The organizing committee deserves our undying gratitude for the thousands of hours spent to put on a first class event. There are always challenges and unexpected and uncontrollable headwinds that affect the running of a competition of this scope and size. Not too many would have predicted a heat wave for the games. Most locals that I talked to can’t remember a hotter week. These remarkable athletes have faced adversity throughout their lives and they accepted the conditions without complaint, another teachable moment for all of us. The organizers made some mid- stream schedule changes to reflect the conditions.

Music and dancing.

I have never seen so many spontaneous outbursts of dancing whenever there was music in the air. It’s too bad that we couldn’t bottle this joy and spread it around the world.

And what will be the legacy of these games?

Too many times, communities focus on the economic spinoffs of a national competition like this. Make no mistake, that happened here and can be quantified. But from my vantage point the intangible spinoffs left by our Special Olympic athletes is much more important. Their athletic prowess was on full display but the biggest legacies they leave our small town are hope, courage, and joy. They represent what is best in mankind.

To the athletes , their families and friends marking the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics movement in Canada, thank you for coming to our town. We’ll turn the thermostat down on your next visit!

Please come back again.

The Special Olympics torch has been extinguished but the memories will be an eternal flame.

 

 

 

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Comments

8 Responses to Monday Morning Musings

  1. Very nice Len ,well done .Thanks for everything

  2. Miriam Gillis says:

    It was an incredible week, Len. The courage, the determination, the attitude displayed, the caring concern for others, it was all there. To watch the joy expressed when an athlete won a medal was an amazing thing. Wherever volunteers went, we were met with expressions of gratitude. On a couple of occasions when one province did not have the correct number to make a team, another province would graciously and happily lend an athlete!!! Words cannot describe the many magical moments, but you have explained in your article the great accomplishment of holding the Special Olympics in Antigonish. We are blessed!

  3. Lisa Gourley says:

    Nicely done Len – you captured it all!

  4. Joan Delorey says:

    It was an amazing week, for sure. It’s incredible what we can accomplish when we work together. Awesome teamwork!

  5. Lorainne says:

    Thank you for the wonderful recap of what sounds like a perfect week. I followed (from afar) with pride and joy as my hometown welcomed the best of the best of humankind display their athletic prowess and, indeed, their love of life and each other. Clearly the Town, County, University and citizens did a remarkable job of organizing and volunteering to make these Olympics such a success.

  6. Gloria Deon says:

    Len ,
    You’ve said it best ! We as parents , we’re thrilled to have our daughter participate in this awesome event ! She enjoyed from start to finish .What a wonderful week . We cannot say enough about our wonderful town .Wow , the volunteers were above and beyond ! Thank you to each and every volunteer ! You are amazing people . The chairs ,coaches and St.F X , we are so grateful .
    We met folks from all across Canada .They were so impressed with the venue ,and especially the friendless of everyone, not only at the games ,but the whole town . We are very proud to say we are from Antiginish !!!

  7. Valda Walsh says:

    You put in words what my heart sings every time I am among these gifts of human beings. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am a proud SO mom. My son did not qualify this year but he did participate in Vancouver 4 years ago and it was a life altering experience for all of us. We are so blessed to be chosen as parents of these remarkable gifts.

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