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Sculptures of Olympic rings celebrate St. Louis’ Olympic legacy

The site of the first Olympics sculpture will be located at the Washington University Field House, one of the locations of the 1904 Olympics.
St. Louis Sports Commission

The Olympic rings will soon be coming to St. Louis.

The St. Louis Sports Commission has announced a plan to place two Olympic sculptures at the venues for the 1904 Olympics.

Approved by the International Olympic Committee, the project will help preserve St. Louis’ Olympic history, said Michael Loynd, chairman of the St. Louis Sports Commission's Olympic Committee.

The Olympic rings were not designed until 1913, several years after the first summer Olympic Games were held in the United States, Loynd said. He said the international body’s consent allows the symbol to finally commemorate the city’s hosting of the games.

“This October we went up to Montreal for the World Union of Olympic Cities and they officially announced this legacy program that would allow us to do it," Loynd said. “Literally the next day we had our proposal in front of them and said this is what we want to do.”

The sculptures, called spectaculars, will be 16 feet by 9 feet tall. Loynd is optimistic that this will be the perfect symbol to commemorate the great accomplishments from the 1904 Olympics.

“We were the first to start the gold, silver, and bronze medal that started here in St. Louis. The first African-American, the first Native American, the first handicapped person, the first U.S. woman received a gold medal, all here in St. Louis,” Loynd said.

The rings will also bring to light the accomplishments of the region’s Olympic athletes.

“I’m so proud that we have so many Olympians come out of this area, I don’t think many people recognize that fact,” said Craig Virgin, a three-time Olympian cross-country runner. “There’s way more Olympians here than most people realize because they just don’t get much profile. We’re not baseball, football, or basketball.”

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, one of the biggest names among St. Louis-area Olympians, says she hopes the sculpture inspires young people to learn more about the Olympics and the athletes who participated in them.

“We are continuing to build on the legacy that has already been built here in St. Louis, and to unveil it today is making that connection,” said Joyner-Kersee, a three-time Olympic gold champion in track and field and an East St. Louis native.

Many associate the 1904 Olympics with the controversial anthropology days of the World’s Fair — an “athletic meet of savage and primitive peoples.” Loynd says that event has nothing to do with the Olympics.

“That was degrading, it was racist, it was bad, but that was conducted by the World’s Fair, and because it was at the stadium, people sometimes associate it with the Olympics,” Loynd said.

Loynd hopes that the commemorative sculptures focus on the Olympic history.

Another part of the plan includes interactive signs that will mark specific locations of 1904 Olympic events. The signs will mark the locations for swimming, rowing, and golfing events, and will be placed at Washington University, Creve Coeur Lake, Forest Park, and Glen Echo Country Club.

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.