Phelps' hometown plans celebration

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BALTIMORE -- About 1,000 people in Michael Phelps' hometown celebrated with a "Phelpstival" four years ago when he brought back six gold medals and two bronzes from the Sydney Olympics.

Officials are thinking expansion now that Phelps' latest eight-medal haul is all gold -- a record -- and he is the winningest Olympian of all time with 16 medals.

A parade, keys to suburban Baltimore County and a street renamed for him -- staples of the 2004 celebration -- somehow just don't seem like enough this time around.

"He's so big and so global now, I'm sure we'll try to top it," Marjorie Hampson, a county spokeswoman, said Monday.

Hampson said county officials originally envisioned a post-Beijing parade that could end at Towson University's 11,000-seat football stadium, named for late Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas.

Problem is, about that many stayed late Saturday at Baltimore's NFL stadium after the Ravens played Minnesota so they could watch on the big screen as Phelps broke Mark Spitz's 36-year-old record of seven golds in one Olympics.

"We had hoped to have it end at Johnny Unitas Stadium, but that may not cut it," Hampson said.

There's no date for the welcome-home celebration, but Hampson said it could be held Labor Day weekend. Phelps has said he'll return to the U.S. on Thursday.

Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, are moving back to Baltimore and the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. Phelps has bought a home in the city's Fells Point neighborhood.

He grew up in the Rogers Forge area of Towson, just north of the city and the Baltimore County seat. He graduated from Towson High School.

He trained at his Baltimore swimming club until after the 2004 Olympics, then moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., when Bowman became coach at Michigan.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon plan to join county officials in honoring Phelps.

O'Malley issued a statement Monday congratulating Phelps, saying Maryland watched him make history "with the pride and anticipation that comes with the spirit of the Olympic Games."

"Michael brought that spirit back to life and has made this year's games an unforgettable experience for all Marylanders," O'Malley said. "We all look forward to welcoming Michael home in the coming weeks."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: