Hero miners strike gold as Chile's new celebrities
The Chilean miners began leaving hospital today and got a taste of their new lives outside the doors -- a swarm of reporters, TV producers, publicity agents and even football teams desperate for a piece of their story.
A day after their epic rescue from the San Jose mine, still wearing the oddly fashionable sunglasses that protected them from the bright light when they were hoisted from 2,000ft underground, the men posed in hospital dressing gowns for a group photo with President Sebastian Pinera.
Three of the men were discharged from the hospital early today and others were expected to follow.
Chilean state television showed the men leaving Copiapo's regional hospital by a side exit and getting into a white van.
Unity helped the men, known as "los 33", survive for 69 days underground, including more than two weeks when no one knew whether they were alive.
But the moment they walk out of the hospital doors, they go beyond the reach of a government operation that has cared for, fed and protected them in a carefully co-ordinated campaign to ensure each of them would leave in top condition.
Yesterday, on their first full day of fresh air, the miners were probably the 33 most in-demand people on the planet.
A Greek mining company wants to bring them to the sunny Aegean islands, competing with rainy Chiloe in the country's southern archipelago, whose tourism bureau wants them to stay for a week.
Hearing that miner Edison Pena jogged regularly in the tunnels below the collapsed rock, the New York City marathon invited him to participate in next month's race.
And television writer-producer and Oscar nominee Lionel Chetwynd said he expected projects were being pitched around Hollywood within hours of the rescue.
The miners families and friends were organising welcome-home dinners, street celebrations and even weddings. Lilianett Ramirez, whose husband Mario Gomez promised her a church wedding in the "Dear Lila" letter Mr Pinera read on TV when the men were found alive, said they have now set a date - November 7.
The government promised six months of psychological treatment, made sure each has a bank account only he can operate, and coached them on dealing with rude questions.
The rescue team even asked Guinness World Records to honour all 33 with the record for longest time trapped underground, rather than the last miner out, Luis Urzua. A spokeswoman said Guinness was studying the question.
The men certainly have an extraordinary story to tell. No-one before them had been trapped so long and survived.