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A trip down memory lane: The 1904 St. Louis Olympics

Start of the 1904 Olympic Marathon Race.
Missouri Historical Society
Start of the 1904 Olympic Marathon Race.

The St. Louis Sports Commission (SLSC) announced that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is granting each city that has hosted the games the chance to display two grand sculptures of the Olympic rings. St. Louis is among those cities and was even the first city in the United States to host the historic athletic competition.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, producer Alex Heuer delved into the history of the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis and discussed new efforts to commemorate that past. Joining the discussion were Jody Sowell, director of exhibitions and research at the Missouri Historical Society, and Mike Loynd, a local attorney who's the chairman of the St. Louis Sports Commission's Olympic Committee.

Listen for more on the 1904 St. Louis Olympics:

The first two modern-day Olympics were held in Greece, then in Paris. In 1901, the IOC decided that the third Olympics would be be held in the United States. Chicago was unanimously chosen to originally host the 1904 Olympics, Sowell said.

But then St. Louis decided to move its World’s Fair exposition to 1904, where an athletic competition was announced that claimed to overshadow the forthcoming Olympics in Chicago.

“People went back to the discussion table and decided to reverse that decision and give the [Olympic] Games to St. Louis,” Sowell said.

Loynd said the two sculptures that will be built to commemorate and embrace the city’s history will have to follow IOC guidelines, which states that the sculptures have to be on an Olympic historic site. The first modern-day Olympic gymnasium, stadium and track were built on the Washington University campus.

“They’re really going to empower people and make us hopefully think more about our past and look forward into the future to inspire others to potentially try to strive for these great things,” Loynd said.

Over the years, the games held in St. Louis have received a bad reputation for not being prepared to host the competitions. Loynd said he hopes that bringing up the past events and clearing up some misconceptions will come with the new efforts to highlight the city’s accomplishments.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.