The 32nd annual Summer Olympics have come to a close in Tokyo, Japan. There were moments of lifetime achievements, world records, tears and raw emotions, a few lessons about mental health and stress, transgender milestones and, overall, a surprisingly successful collection of games, competition and camaraderie — all under a cloud of a global coronavirus pandemic.
We are so impressed that we think we should stage a Sonoma County Olympics. We’re surprised no one hasn’t thought of this before.
We don’t need to invite the rest of the world to our Sonoma County Olympics. We should just have the games and surrounding pageantry all to ourselves. We deserve some big time self-celebrating, don’t you agree? We can carve out some summer weeks away from wildfire preparation, drought conservation and pandemic vigilance to play games, cheer one another, mount podiums, award medals, play our anthem and have some healthy fun.
Our Olympic lineup could include the usual track and field events, bicycle, canoe and kayak races, swimming competition, an Olympic-style soccer tournament and more. But for extra fun, we could add some special “Sonoma County twists.”
Our local wineries could sponsor hot air balloon races and a bocce ball world championship. We could move the Harvest Fair’s world championship grape stomp competition to be part of our Olympics, too.
Another highlight could be a series First Responders’ Games. Local fire departments could compete as teams in contests like hose and nozzle drills, mock rescue races and precision-scored practice dwelling burns. Here’s another tasty twist: we could have all the fire departments compete for a champion gold medal for best pancake breakfast fundraiser.
Who wouldn’t want to see all our elected officials competing in a series of gymnastic competitions? For once and for all, we could see which of our politicians is the top performer on the balance beam, neither tilting too far left or falling off to the conservative right. How much admission could we charge to see supervisors David Rabbitt, James Gore and Chris Coursey bounce, spin, somersault, tiptoe and do splits in a series of Olympics-style floor exercises? Which local politician wants to claim the gold medal for the uneven parallel bars, rings or pommel horse?
Sonoma County is more suited than Tokyo to hold skateboarding and surfing contests. We could hold multiple day events at our many community skateboard parks and include all age groups. When the tides cooperate, we could all descend on Salmon Creek Beach and settle decades of local surfers’ bragging rights with juried judging and a popular vote.
Our Russian River is a perfect venue for open canoe and kayak races. We’ll have the Russian River Riverkeeper nonprofit and director Don McEnhill expand the paddle races they’ve been hosting in recent summers prior to the pandemic. Races could start in Cloverdale and end at various mile markers with an international gold medal reserved for the fastest solo paddler who reaches the Jenner estuary first.
Summer Olympic games can be great economic boosters. So, let’s hold our swimming finales at Sebastopol’s Ives Pool and raise enough money to pay for several years of community pool operations. Our swimming commissioner will be Ives Pool’s very own Ricardo Freitas.
Sonoma County has lots of great sports enthusiasts and promoters like Freitas. We’ll call on Healdsburg Running Company’s founder Skip Brand to organize all our foot races.
Our soccer tournament should be led by the four Ziemer brothers (Andrew, Benjamin, Marcus and Christopher), Sonoma County’s first family of real football.
A Sonoma County Olympics highlight and finale could be the return of Levi Leipheimer’s Grand Fondo bicycle race and ride, which was first held in 2009 and attracted 5,000 riders. After a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, the number of entries could easily double.
One thing’s for sure, we’d all end up being winners.