Eugene’s Saturday Market was decidedly not the right place to find fans of the World Championships in Athletics in the early afternoon, and the right place for those looking to avoid them.
“I think that’s cool,” said Tiffany Brookes, who was examining a rack of colorful $5 wrap skirts at a clothing stand across from a double-digit drum circle in the heart of downtown.
“But I didn’t know until yesterday.”
A relatively new resident of Eugene, Brookes, 28, traveled downtown mainly for the farmers’ market, where she likes to visit the “fish guy”, who sells good smoked black cod, and buy vegetables to plant in his garden.
There, she didn’t mind wandering among the dozens of tents offering a virtually unquantifiable variety of goods as buskers at various corners vied for dollar bills.
The massage therapist, former farmer and botany student only recently learned from a friend that the championships were important, prompting her to consider inquiring about the cost of tickets. But that’s about as far as her motivation went, and Brookes went home Saturday with gluten-free buckwheat bagels and kale.
Several market vendors said the crowds were about the same, if not smaller, than most Saturdays.
Ram Shucart showed the rolling ring on his little finger to the group of women who had stopped to look at the rings on display that the certified gemologist had for sale.
“They’re mildly addictive, but there are no side effects,” he said, prompting a round of laughter. “Maybe a little less anxiety – that’s a side effect.”
No dice, and they moved on, only to be replaced by others asking to try on a ring or two.
Shucart, who said he sold his rings at Eugene Market for 25 years, said he heard many people say they were from overseas, but he didn’t ask if they were in town specifically for the championships.
A short drive away, around 2 p.m., the mystery of where the thousands of visitors were was easily solved. With each step from the quiet neighborhood east of Hayward Field and toward the stadium, the echo of the announcer grew louder, as the transparent silver dome appeared like a poorly hidden spaceship among the buildings of the University of Oregon campus. .
The morning track and field series was over. Outside the stadium, the athletes and their support staff stayed to eat or chat. A group of Finns in blue gathered under the branches of a sequoia. The Aussies, in green, sat outside a staff and athlete building and gulped.
The exits were wide open to let off a stream of thousands of spectators, many of whom headed for a shuttle to take them back to their cars. This river of people was where the visitors were.
“I truly believe that this is the best of humanity,” said Sacha Nastili as his wife, the true die-hard athletics fan among them, looked on with a smile. “I think it’s beautiful.”
The couple drove from Oakland, Calif., to Washington State and dropped off their children with family, then flew to Eugene for the events. Both have Caribbean families, which Idrissa Nastili says was the source of their love for the sport.
Idrissa Nastili said she ran when she was young, finding it a “very liberating sport”. She loves the athletic lineup, she said, always discovering new things after years of fandom. On Saturday, for example, she was surprised to discover how graceful the hammer throw is.
And yes, the event meets his expectations. But the women’s 100 meters scheduled for Saturday night was among the events she was most looking forward to.
“I’m going to be excited like crazy.”
— Fedor Zarkhin