Thirty miles into a long weekday ride on my road bike in (I think) 2004, I stopped at a downtown coffee shop for a quick break. I thought I looked pretty cool, even in a splashy spandex U.S. Postal jersey — and there was my friend Shannon, sitting a slender dark-haired woman who looked vaguely familiar.
“ Come join us, “ said Shannon, a woman in her late 20s who had grown up with my kids. I grabbed a slice of coffeecake and sat down.
“In the middle of a ride, or just beginning?” Shannon asked. “This is my friend Mari. You know me — I’m not a cyclist, but Mari rides. You guys should go for a ride sometime.”
I fell into Shannon’s gracefully set trap.
“I dunno,” I said “I might not be much fun to ride with. I’m pretty speedy, so…”
“I could try to keep up,” said Mari innocently, as Shannon sputtered with laughter.
I looked at Mari again and figured it out.
Mari Holden. Olympic silver medalist in the time trial, world champion, six-time US champion. Although Holden had lived and trained in Colorado Springs for more than 10 years, she was just one of many superb athletes who hung out in our fair city.
We all laughed. It was a typical Colorado Springs moment.
The Olympic presence is one of the joys of Colorado Springs. It’s an irreplaceable and delightful part of our civic DNA, but it’s not the only part. To identify the city as “Olympic City USA” is not expansive, but limiting.
Nashville’s self-designation as “Music City” makes sense, because that city’s music has defined, enlarged, delighted and brightened America for generations. “Music City” didn’t come from focus groups and marketing gurus, but from the city’s soul. It’d be nice to have a convenient, two- or three-word signifier for our city, but you can’t force it — you either have it or you don’t. Some names are great, and some are anything but.
The Windy City — Chicago
The Big Apple — New York
The City by the Bay — San Francisco
Beantown — Boston
Motor City — Detroit
Hotlanta — Atlanta in the summer
The People’s Republic of Boulder — what Republicans call Boulder
Silicon Valley — the once-middle class Santa Clara Valley and southern San Francisco Bay area.
The Mistake by the Lake — Cleveland
You don’t need a booster-inspired brand to build a great city. Denver tried to call itself “The Queen City of the Plains,” but cynical newspaper reporters dubbed it “Our Dusty Old Cowtown.” Now it’s just Denver — rich, varied, exciting and cool.
I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll be totally ok with the Olympic City thing when a majority of local elected officials are active participants in sports, as is City Councilor Jill Gaebler. Maybe we could require as a condition of election that they do the Pikes Peak Ascent in 4:30 or less — now that’d be an Olympic City!