ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Saying it’s been an overlooked part of our history for too long, the St. Louis Sports Commission Monday unveiled its new effort to re-ignite the spirit of the 1904 Olympics in the region.
“We’re not stuck in the past,” Commission President Frank Viverito told a crowd in the Washington University Fieldhouse, “but, instead to highlight a part of our history that shouldn’t be taken for granted and can spark our imagination going forward.”
Thirteen St. Louis Olympians had the honor of unveiling renderings of phase one of the effort led by the commission’s Olympic Legacy Committee. It includes the installation of Olympic rings on the Washington University campus, where many of the events were held, and interpretive signs at the sites of the first diving competition at Forest Park and the rowing competition at Creve Coeur Lake Park.
In addition, signs will line the route of the Olympic marathon. The city is also getting its first Olympic logo for the 1904 games, which should be released soon by the International Olympic Committee.
Viverito says reviving the city’s Olympic legacy can help re-define St. Louis as a global city.
“It’s important for us to be at that international table,” he says. “It think it can be important for the Sports Commission to bring more Olympic and national championship and world champion events for the community.”
Mike Loynd, who chairs the Olympic Legacy Committee, says, “We really hope this inspires some generations and hope it inspires our city to think a little more unified, a little more thoughtful with each other and hopefully come together to achieve great things.”
The effort, Viverito says, has been in the works for years. He told the gathering that the commission represents St. Louis in the World Union of Olympic Cities, which was formed a decade ago and has now been embraced by the IOC.
In 2012, he says the commission shared its vision of doing more to celebrate St. Louis’ Olympic legacy with the IOC, and they were told they were a “just a bit of ahead of our time.” Two years later, the IOC created Agenda 2020, a road map for the future of the Olympic movement. Last fall, according to Viverito, the IOC laid out the guidelines for cities to promote their legacies.
Among the most excited by the development are the local Olympic athletes.
“It’s long overdue,” says three-time Olympic speed skater Jim Chapin. “What they did here is a huge step in the right direction. I think it will be good for sport in the city of St. Louis and I think it will be good for the city of St. Louis in general.”
Olympic soccer gold medalist Lori Chalupny calls the effort inspiring: “It’s something we, as St. Louisans, should be proud of, and it’s something that we haven’t necessarily celebrated as much as we should.”
And there’s more to come, Loynd says.
“We really hope to get some Olympic trials here and just be more part of the movement. The IOC is aware of this, and is happy for us, and is excited for us to be stepping up our game.”
Viverito says Phase 2 of the effort, which is privately funded, will include an Olympic Plaza that will honor each of the countries that sent athletes to the 1904 games. He also wants to have the word “Olympic” added to the name of Francis Field – one of the first venues – along with the Fieldhouse, built for the Olympic games.