Michael Phelps fittingly arrived by water for a ceremony honoring eight of Maryland’s Olympic heroes at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
The Olympic swimmer and his mother were aboard the Pride of Baltimore II, which docked near the amphitheater where Monday’s event took place.
Phelps won four gold medals and two silvers in London last summer to complete a career haul of 22 medals, including 18 gold.
He and the seven other Maryland Olympians were given a key to the city by Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
On a beautiful, clear day, hundreds were in attendance. Many were wearing Ravens jerseys and sightseeing before walking to nearby M&T Bank Stadium to watch Baltimore host the Cincinnati Bengals.
”I just want to say this is the best city to be a part of,” Phelps told the crowd. ”You guys have supported me throughout my whole career.”
Phelps saluted the two professional sports teams, the Orioles and Ravens.
”The O’s are finally back. We have the Ravens tonight,” Phelps said. ”I think for me, something I’ve been able to see is how much support we all give our sports teams. Let’s get a good game tonight and have some fun.”
Phelps, 27, was born north of Baltimore and went to Towson High School before gaining Olympic fame.
Baltimore County executive Kevin Kamenetz said of Phelps: ”He may be a citizen of the world now, but to us he will always be Michael of Rodgers Forge.”
Gold medal winner Katie Ledecky was also saluted. Ledecky, 15, won the 800-meter freestyle by four seconds.
”It means a lot to me to celebrate this with the community who has supported all of us so much,” Ledecky said before the ceremony. ”Watching Michael was incredible, and to be on the same team was a really neat feeling.”
Others honored: David Banks (rowing); Farrah Hall (windsurfing); Bobby Lea (cycling); Katie O’Donnell (field hockey); Suzanne Stettinius (pentathalon); and Scott Parsons (kayak).
Parsons was looking forward to seeing Phelps more than seeing, say, Gov. Martin O’Malley.
”It will be exciting to see him here,” Parson said. ”I’m a fan, too.”