LONDON — The eyes of the world have been on London during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, and two St. Bonaventure University friars have been watching from the front row. David Blake, OFM, and Basil Valente, OFM,experienced the Olympic fervor first-hand during their annual summer trip to the United Kingdom for the Francis E. Kelley Oxford Program through SBU.
Thanks to the generosity of two tutors in the program, Basil, Dave, and the students in the program attended the Olympic Torch Relay Celebration in Oxford City. Basil had his photo taken with one of the Olympic torches.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” he said.
“I was deeply moved by the sense of British pride emanating from the crowd throughout the entire torch ceremony,” Dave said.
Though both Basil and Dave have traveled to Oxford for the program before — Basil for 14 years and Dave for four — the ceremony and the games allowed them to experience British culture in a new way.
“The piece that makes Oxford and London different this year is that everyone appears to be consumed with Olympic Spirit,” Basil said.
The friars did not attend the opening ceremony, but had the opportunity to attend Day 7’s events at Olympic Park in London on Aug. 3, thanks to the generosity of several Oxford program alumni. There, they watched the indoor cycling events with more than 80,000 people — a magical and electric experience, according to Basil.
“The best part of the day was when Great Britain’s men’s team won the gold medal for cycling,” Basil said. “Soon after, we stood and sang the national anthem with throngs of people from around the globe. I enjoyed the day at Olympic park tremendously. It was a personal delight to be among so many people and so many cultures, all supporting international cooperation and intense dedication to sport.”
One of Dave’s highlights was picking up the Day 7 program and seeing a half page article on Stef Collins, a 2006 St. Bonaventure graduate who played for Great Britain’s women’s basketball team. Basil and Dave contacted her and invited her to Trinity College in Oxford for the program’s final high table banquet, but her busy basketball and media schedule didn’t allow time for it.
Both friars complimented the organization and planning behind the transportation, security, information services and hospitality in and around Olympic Park. None of their usual travel plans were interrupted by the events.
“It was a delight to get off the train in London and be personally escorted — no kidding — to Olympic Park,” Basil said.
A photograph of the friars at the Olympics with SBU alumnus Tom Cullen, ’00, appeared on Holy Name Province’sFacebook page last week.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province and an alumna of St. Bonaventure University’s Oxford program.