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Category: Inspiration / Topics: Character, Integrity Circumstances, Life Events Coping COVID-19 Faith History Hopes & Dreams Inspiration Optimal Aging

Sam the Olympic Eagle and You

by Leona Bergstrom

Posted: July 9, 2021

Are your soaring days over?…


On July 23rd, the world will finally get to watch its best athletes compete in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. After a one-year delay due to COVID 19, stadiums, tracks, gymnasiums, and pools will host over 11,000 athletes and ZERO fans. Sadly, pandemic protocol means the rivalry and revelry will be watched virtually, not in person. It isn’t the first time the Olympic games have made adjustments—and, as always, history has its lessons. 

Take for instance, the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles, California. Where else would you expect grandiose and ambitious pageantry? Home of Disneyland and Hollywood, Los Angeles fancied putting on a magnificent show. America was anxious to celebrate its distinctive way of life, so game organizers, celebrities, and politicians eagerly participated in fashioning the event. Appropriately, the bald eagle, a symbol of American freedom, was designated as the mascot. He was named Sam the Olympic Eagle and was cute, fluffy, gregarious, and appropriately dressed in red, white, and blue

It's not surprising someone proposed a real bald eagle should open the games by soaring over the LA Coliseum to a rousing performance of The Star-Spangled Banner. The grand bird would then land on a perch right beside the American flag! At the time, bald eagles were on the endangered species list so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided just one candidate for the job. It was Bomber, a 22-year-old, 12-pound bald eagle who had spent the majority of his adult life in captivity. He was flown from a wildlife research center in Maryland to a large two-bedroom birdhouse in Los Angeles and immediately went into training for the big event.

After completing a small number of nearly successful flights, Bomber was deemed ready for dress rehearsal. Sadly, the grand bird lapsed into convulsions, collapsed, and died. In an interview with Time magazine, Bomber’s trainer stated,

     “The eagle had been fat and coddled for years and when finally called upon to behave like an eagle, he failed.”

The middle-aged, overweight bald eagle was replaced by a 12-year-old golden eagle named Fluff and the show went on.

What can we possibly learn from this Olympic fiasco? Perhaps one vivid lesson is for those of us who, like Bomber, are in mid or older adult life.  The world watches for us to behave like eagles– and when called upon, to powerfully soar with life experience, wisdom, and energy. All too often, however, thinking our time for soaring is passed, we sit in our cages, becoming out of touch with the needs around us. Honestly, we’re even laxer after months of pandemic-induced isolation! We may be out of shape, weak, and unsure how to live out God’s purpose in our lives. Unfortunately, “Back to Normal” doesn’t appear to include soaring.

Are you done soaring? Clearly not! Re-Ignite believes you can go sky-high by taking time to discover and exercise your God-given purpose. Consider your passions, gifts, skills, experience, motivations, and talents—and follow God’s calling in this season of life! There are challenging days ahead, and we as elders need to be resilient and keen-eyed. We must soar–as an eagle should.

We’d love to help encourage you. Please contact us.



Search all articles by Leona Bergstrom

Leona Bergstrom is co-founder, with her husband Richard, of ChurchHealth/Re-Ignite in Edmonds, Washington.

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Posted: July 9, 2021

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