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At the Oklahoma River, a finish line, and an Olympic starting point

by Patrick B. McGuigan
Executive Editor

On a breezy and clear evening on the Oklahoma River, Chesapeake Energy founder Aubrey McClendon led a relaxed and joyful celebration for the formal christening of the new Finish Line Tower. While star of the show was clearly the iconic glass tower, metaphorically evoking the image of a boat slicing through water, McClendon praised Larry Nichols, his friend and competitor from Devon Energy, for that firm’s role in river front development and support of paddle sports.

Joining McClendon and hundreds of city leaders and rowing enthusiasts for the ceremony were Mayor Mick Cornett, architect Rand Elliott, Thunder owner Clay Bennett and other supporters of the MAPS process that has converted the old Canadian River into a “new” River – fulfilling a dream crafted two decades ago by then City Chamber-president Ray Ackerman.

Rowing guru Mike Knopp described his joy, as an experienced coach and competitive rower, at the latest addition in the line of buildings on the north bank of the River. From a second floor balcony, McClendon, Cornett, Knopp and Elliott gathered to shake up and then spray across the building’s side a dose of champagne to christen the facility. Television, print and online reporters filming and witnessing the moment were also “christened” by the palatable liquor.

After a brief ceremony, an armada of watercraft soared through the river, traveling from east to west across the new finish line near the Lincoln Boulevard bridge. Visitors toured the building and visited along boathouse row, enjoying an assortment of finger foods and other liquid refreshments.

As visitors lingered, boat crews brought their craft to shore and into the inlets where now abide the docks for the boathouses. Among those returning boats to these safe houses at the water’s side were the 50 Olympic-caliber athletes from around the world who now make Oklahoma City their home. They are training daily on the river, once was a tiny stream and now home venue for women and men dreaming of winning medals in the 2012 London Games.

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