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Nesting ospreys delight crowds at World Championships

Nesting ospreys delight crowds at World Championships

EUGENE, Ore. : When Noah Lyles led a stunning American sweep in the 200 metres on Thursday, he had some unusual cheerleaders watching over the starting line: A nest of ospreys who have become the World Championships’ unofficial mascots.

There is no starting gun nor roar of the crowd that rouses the raptors from their home on a platform above the University of Oregon School of Law, which is visible to the crowd at the 10-day international meet in Eugene, Oregon.

In between field events and sprint heats, fans delight in watching the youngest in the nest flap its wings, thanks to footage displayed on the Hayward Field big screen.

« Watching the announcers and the fans cheer for the bird, learning to fly in the same way that they’re cheering for the athletes, running and jumping and throwing – yeah, I never would have predicted that, but it’s really fun, » said Michael Moffitt, the Philip H. Knight Chair in Law at the University of Oregon.

The ospreys previously resided in the historic Hayward Field until a 2014 incident prompted their relocation to the platform at the Knight Law Center.

« They dropped a trout onto lane four during a track meet, » Moffitt, the birds’ de facto spokesman, told Reuters.

« My professional expertise is in conflict resolution. And the way we resolved this one was to just move the birds across the street. »

Hayward underwent extensive renovation beginning in 2018, with the project competed in 2020, ahead of its hosting duties for the U.S. Olympic trials.

While Eugene lacks metropolitan energy and amenities of past hosts like Doha, London and Beijing, the quiet college town nestled on the Willamette River presents a prime opportunity for fans to enjoy natural beauty – the ospreys a prime example.

« We were witnessing the baby bird practicing getting ready to fly. So it was really exciting, » said Shannon Dixon, 49, an IT worker from Oxnard, California.

« I could just appreciate the nature that was occurring. »

The ospreys have quickly become a fan favourite, rivalling the championships’ fuzzy, yellow official mascot, Legend the Bigfoot, in affection.

« I do prefer the bird (over Legend) because it’s natural, and I loved it, » said Sigfried Cesar, 57, who lives in Houston, Texas. « I really loved the fact that this happened. »

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