St. Louis Olympic Legacy Committee
Edition of the Games: 1904 Olympic Summer Games
How Legacy Governance Started In St. Louis
As the city that hosted America’s First Olympic Games, the birthplace of the Olympic Gold Medal, and the city that debuted Olympic diving, freestyle wrestling, boxing, and the decathlon, among many other firsts, St. Louis has as a goal to ignite or re-ignite the passion and Olympic spirit throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. As the Games were held in 1904, St. Louis needs to physically reconnect with its Olympic history through visible signs and symbols. This process is a natural and sustainable continuation of the 2004 Olympic Centennial Celebration, as described in the Olympic Legacy Toolkit.
As a Member of the World Union of Olympic Cities and St. Louis’ representative to the United States Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee, the St. Louis Sports Commission’s goal is to inspire awareness and pride in St. Louis’ Olympic affiliation, and to positively impact St. Louis through its opportunities as an Olympic City.
In February 2018, the St. Louis Sports Commission unveiled its plans to raise the profile and impact of its region’s involvement in the Olympic Movement. The plans include initiatives to visibly identify the venues that hosted Olympic events in 1904. Two Olympic “spectaculars” – sculptures of the Olympic rings – will be displayed at sites that are historically linked to the 1904 Games. The first one was unveiled in Washington University, home to the 1904 Olympic Stadium and birthplace of the Olympic gold medal. The spectacular is located on the northeast corner of Francis Field, the oldest modern-day Olympic Stadium in active use. A site for the second spectacular will be chosen in a near future. To emphasize the historical significance of former Olympic places as well as to invite people to interact with and feel part of the Olympic Movement, interpretive signage will be installed featuring each venue’s role in the 1904 Games along with notable facts and stories. Each sign will include an IOC-approved stamp that incorporates the Olympic rings and has been specifically designed for St. Louis’ Olympic legacy programme. Complementing the spectaculars and signage initiatives will be grassroots programmes and educational platforms intended to engage the entire community, especially young people, in Olympism. A dedicated website has also been developed, that highlights the history, innovations and relevance of the 1904 Olympics, and provides information about the Olympic legacy project. Last but not least, by setting up a structured Olympic Legacy Committee, the St. Louis Sports Commission provides the necessary means and human resources as well as the sustainability and the time required for the project to achieve its objectives: to properly embrace and celebrate St. Louis’ Olympic Legacy, carry this torch for future generations and boost opportunities for the City and the region. Olympians and Paralympic athletes have been closely associated with the institution and the project and play a tremendous role in promoting the vision and the mission of the St. Louis Olympic Legacy Committee.
The project is clearly inscribed within the IOC Agenda 2020 vision and the affiliation of St. Louis with the World Union of Olympic Cities.
“As host of the 1904 Games and as America’s first Olympic city, St. Louis is in exclusive company, forever having a place at an international table that includes the world’s greatest cities. Our region’s role in the Olympic Movement is something to celebrate, and we want to make a transformative difference in St. Louis through the opportunities we have as an Olympic city.” Frank Viverito, St. Louis Sports Commission President.
The objectives of the St. Louis Olympic Legacy Committee will be carried out through a multi-phase project that aims to ignite the community’s imagination around the Olympic spirit. The first phase of the project – installation of the Olympic spectacular and interpretive signage – is currently being implemented. Other elements – hosting events, producing grassroots programming, developing educational platforms – will be ongoing.
Celebrate Olympism and its values
Through visible signs displayed in the City as well as programmes dedicated to promoting the Olympic Spirit among the population, particularly its youth, St. Louis reconnects with its Olympic history and generates social cohesion and pride. Educational programmes are designed to engage the community in Olympism. Beyond embodying the Olympic Spirit, the Olympic rings are a timeless global symbol of unity and achievement. They will inspire the region to think more globally and thoughtfully about each other, and come together as a community to achieve great things. “Meet me at the rings” will surely become part of the region’s vocabulary! The participation of Olympians within the project is a lively testimony of the Olympic spirit being spread around. The St. Louis Olympic Legacy Committee hopes to use the spirit of innovation exhibited at the 1904 Games as a model to move its community ahead.
Promote the city by leveraging its affiliation with the Olympic Movement
The St. Louis Olympic Legacy Committee contributes to the promotion of the City and the region, not only by looking at the glorious Olympic past but also by using the status of Olympic City as a door-opener for the future! As being an Olympic City is an asset, the organisation aims to generate greater understanding of the value and relevance associated with the region’s place in Olympic history. The St. Louis Sports Commission and its Olympic Legacy Committee also are focused on pursuing future Olympic events that can have significant impact on the community. These include Olympic Trials, national governing body championships, torch relays and other special events, and connecting with the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. In April 2019, St. Louis was awarded the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Gymnastics.
Going forward, a key measurement of the initiative’s success will be the level of community engagement and awareness. The Sports Commission aims to achieve greater regional, national and international understanding of St. Louis’ role in the Olympic Movement – as well as the ways the St. Louis Games changed the Olympics for the better. Active participation numbers will also be indicators of success, particularly for grassroots events and activities. For instance, it is the Sports Commission’s goal to eventually have 1,904 young people from the region run the 1904 Olympic stadium track with Jackie Joyner-Kersee and other area Olympians every Olympic Day. An ultimate measure of success will be to what extent the Olympic legacy initiative can unite and inspire St. Louisans, and encourage them to strive for the Olympic ideals.
The most distant legacy
Of all Olympic cities, St. Louis actually has the most distant Olympic legacy. That’s because even though St. Louis was the III Olympiad, the previous host cities – Athens and Paris – hosted another Summer Games since 1904. The St. Louis Games predated the introduction of the famous five Olympic Rings. The emblem that represents the 1904 Games is the logo of the World’s Fair, which coincided with the Olympics in St. Louis. So because its Games were so long ago, St. Louis lacks the marks, commemoration spaces and organizational infrastructure retained by most other Olympic cities. From a historical standpoint, there are many misconceptions about the St. Louis Games. Among the St. Louis Olympic Legacy Committee’s goals is to separate fact from fiction and highlight the ways the St. Louis Games changed the Olympics for the better.
Negotiating the use of the Olympic Brand with the IOC
Because the 1904 Olympics predated the existence of the rings, St. Louis previously did not have the ability to use the symbol.
Collaborating with the IOC, with support from the WUOC and guided by Agenda 2020, the Sports Commission obtained permission to include a stamp incorporating the rings and “Site of the Olympic Games” on approved historical signage and markers. This permission was the culmination of several years working collaboratively with the IOC and WUOC to share St. Louis’ vision and proposed initiatives, and to determine acceptable steps that could be taken. On September 28, 2018, St. Louis’ first Olympic Spectacular was unveiled at Washington University, site of the Olympic Games, as part of a special ceremony featuring area Olympians and 1968 Decathlon gold medallist Bill Toomey.
Focusing on the future; not living in the past
In St. Louis, people sometimes lament that the community is too tied to its history and not forward-thinking enough. So the Olympic Legacy Project needs to overcome a potential perception that it plays into the region “living in the past.” Much effort has been undertaken to present the initiative as forward-focused. It is still critical that St. Louis embraces and celebrates its history – especially as it relates to the Olympics, something so unique and significant. And the venues, history and stories surrounding the 1904 Games need to be promoted and celebrated in a much more visible way. But to make the initiative even more impactful, the Sports Commission emphasizes that St. Louis should be recognized as an Olympic city (once an Olympic city, always an Olympic city!). It also highlights the idea that St. Louis’ Olympic legacy can be a catalyst to pursue and attract future opportunities connected to the Olympic Movement. Taken together, this all can have an enduring impact, enhancing the region’s quality of life and generating economic and social benefit.
Key learnings and recommendations
Create a long-lasting structure dedicated to managing legacy
The presence of high-level volunteers who have a passion for the Olympics and their community plus strong civic relationships can make a tremendous difference in the ability to be successful.
Mobilise Olympians and Paralympic athletes
Athletes are the lively evidence of what can be achieved through sport. The St. Louis Sports Commission managed to involve local athletes who have a national and international dimension. Athletes are best positioned to talk to the youth, teach the sense of effort, transmit Olympic values and play as role models. The celebration of the 2018 Olympic Day is a great example of the mobilisation of Olympians and Paralympic athletes at the service of the community.
Link the past and the future
Activating legacy goes far beyond looking backwards and talk about old times. Stories are used to build new memories, create local cohesion and mobilise people.
The full case is available in printable version on the members’ portal.
In addition to the above description, the PDF version also gathers practical information including internal and external partners involved; finance and cost; use of the olympic brand; human resources and time; and contact details.
The World Union of Olympic Cities’ team remains at your disposal for any further information and contact’s facilitation at email@example.com
Additional resources can be found through the following links: