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Time for new beginnings

Between the Lines

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By the time you read this, America and the world will be locking into focus on the 2010 Winter Olympics. For 17 days, the problems and issues that surround our everyday lives won't seem quite so burdensome.

Across the globe, multitudes will allow themselves to be mesmerized, whether by their own nations' athletes or by strangers from other lands.

Young athletes, many anonymous today, will leap suddenly into our collective consciousness — perhaps by what they achieve, perhaps by coming up just short. Their stories will move us, deflate us, uplift us.

But as much as the Olympics can impact our entire planet, Colorado Springs will watch and react in a different way. And that begins to explain why the Independent will be part of that media throng, live in Vancouver. My job for the rest of February will be to provide a different look and perspective from inside those Olympic rings, in each of the next three Indy editions and every day right here at csindy.com.

The best part is knowing how many people in Colorado Springs really do care.

No, this isn't the time or place to regurgitate once again the hard feelings that resulted from the city's retention deal to guarantee the U.S. Olympic Committee's presence here for another generation. We have to move beyond that. We can't wallow forever in the negativity.

Fortunately for all concerned, we have the Winter Games before us now. And it does have deeper meaning in Colorado Springs. For most of the nation and world, the two Olympic species — winter and summer — come around every four years, staggered to give us "only" two years between one and the other.

But here's the difference: Our city has lived with the Olympics all the time, every day, since the Olympic Training Center opened in 1977. We've seen countless athletes and events parade through, many spending significant time here. We've admired and embraced Olympic heroes well before the rest of America did, people like speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno in 2006 and 2002, swimmer Amy Van Dyken in 1996, boxer Andrew Maynard in 1988 and gymnast Scott Johnson in 1984. We've known countless more whose biggest accomplishment was simply becoming Olympians, representing their country on the world's largest sporting stage.

And our city is filled with residents who have friends inside the Olympic movement — not just the athletes, but coaches and trainers and so many other support people. We can tell some of their stories from Vancouver, and it'll mean just as much.

Why? Because, despite the recent mixed emotions, this truly is an Olympic city. And we'll reaffirm that, repeatedly, in the days ahead.

Certainly, the local angst has taken its toll. But out of those rocky months came a watershed change, as the USOC hired attorney Scott Blackmun as its new CEO. Blackmun, who has spent most of his adult life in Colorado Springs, saw from close range what happened the past two years. He had nothing to do with that retention deal, and he sees some distance where once there was closeness. He's also determined to do something about it.

Already, we hear of Blackmun telling people around the city to expect more outreach from the USOC. In his first staff meeting just before being announced as CEO, Blackmun told the group he would strongly emphasize more involvement in the community. He wants everyone inside the USOC to help make Colorado Springs prouder than ever to have the Olympics in its midst.

That'll also mean bringing meetings here — such as the auspicious Olympic Assembly, which in September will draw more than 500 leaders throughout the Olympic movement to town — and the USOC encouraging more sports to have tournaments and championships in the Springs. It'll mean seeing Olympic people, whether it's Blackmun, other staff or athletes, being visible and more involved in the community.

But nobody will be touting it publicly in advance. They'll let their actions send the new message.

So let's start this new beginning with Vancouver as the backdrop, and with more great American stories about to unfold.

Colorado Springs could use some fresh inspiration. And some new heroes.

routon@csindy.com

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