The weather was cloudy and chilly. A number of potential guests were home celebrating Ramadan.
But Westport’s 50th annual jUNe Day drew nearly 200 United Nations workers and their families to Westport today.
Assistant Secretary-General Carole Wainaina of Kenya and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe traded welcomes at Saugatuck Elementary School. But this was nothing like a General Assembly meeting.
A little music and a few munchies later, everyone was off: to downtown, Longshore, Compo, Earthplace, Wakeman Town Farm and all points in between.
No translation was needed — beyond the word “fun.”
Flags from around the world replace the Stars and Stripes on jUNe Day. Too bad there was no breeze to flutter them. (Photo/Jim Chillington)
No matter where you’re from, if you’re a little kid it’s all about the food. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)
Visitors from Peru, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines and more enjoyed a tour of Wakeman Town Farm — including an expanded chicken coop, productive beehive, and edible marigolds that protect the gardens from insects. (Photo/Elizabeth Beller)
A pair of Olympians got into the spirit. Bill Steinkraus — brother of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen — was an equestrian in 6 Olympics. He won 1 individual gold medal, and 2 silvers and a bronze as a team member. Ann Marie Flynn of Westport was a high jumper in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)
For 50 years, Westport soccer teams have taken on their UN counterparts. This trophy is a recent addition to the rivalry. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)
When Ann Marie Flynn was an Olympic high jumper, she received the same perks as every other American athlete. A uniform. Housing. And a spending allowance: $2 a day.
Sure, that was the Melbourne games — back in 1956. But still…
Ann Marie — a longtime Westporter who, among other things, is a former Representative Town Meeting (RTM) member — is no longer a high jumper.
Ann Marie Flynn, throwing the hammer.
No, she’s not too old. She’s only 73.
She’s just moved on to other things.
Like discus and shot put. And hammer throwing. Just one year into that new sport last year, she ranked 4th in the nation. Okay, in her age group. But still…
Ann Marie was just 18 when she represented the US at the Melbourne Olympics. A year earlier, competing for New York’s German-American Athletic Club, she’d won the national AAU championship.
Facilities for female athletes back then were almost non-existent. She trained in Brooklyn — squeezing workouts around schoolwork, plus a 5-day-a-week, 3-hour-a-day job. She competed on weekends.
But Ann Marie qualified for the Olympics. The US held strictly to the IOC’s amateur standards. Other countries (Russia, East Germany, ahem) did not.
Ann Marie did not win a medal in Melbourne (She did earn a gold the following year, at the Pan American Games). Still, the Olympic Games were a defining moment in her life.
She realized the importance of friendships forged through international competition. She also made life-long friends on the US team.
In 2006, the squad held a reunion in Indianapolis. “We walked in like we’d seen each other yesterday,” Ann Marie says. “That’s the kind of camaraderie that comes from the games.”
She’s following the 2012 London Olympics avidly. “There are so many changes,” she says. For athletes, coaches and television viewers, she says, “It’s like leaving the dark ages, and coming into the light.”
But one thing hasn’t changed. “The spirit of the games still prevails,” Ann Marie says. “I saw it when everyone walked in for the opening ceremonies, and I know they’ll all feel it when they walk out. Everyone there will have memories they’ll never forget.
“Just like I do.”
Yesterday, as part of the Westport Library’s ongoing airing of the London Olympics, Ann Marie Flynn stopped by to watch — and answer questions. (Photo/Marcia Logan)
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