In recognition of its significant place in Olympic history, Washington University’s Francis Field is being renamed “Francis Olympic Field.” The renaming of the venue will be celebrated at a ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 21. The ceremony will take place at halftime of the Washington University football game against North Central (Ill.), which kicks off at 5 p.m.
St. Louis area Olympians, Washington University Chancellor Andrew D. Martin, and members of the St. Louis Sports Commission’s Olympic Legacy Committee will be part of the festivities.
Francis Olympic Field served as the main stadium for the 1904 Olympic Games. The venue hosted multiple events, including track and field, archery, cycling, gymnastics, and weightlifting. Completed in 1904, Francis Field’s permanent stands represented one of the first applications of reinforced concrete technology, making the facility, at the time, truly state-of-the-art. Today, as the home to several of Washington University’s athletic teams, Francis Olympic Field is the oldest modern Olympic stadium still in active use. The venue is named for David Rowland Francis, a former Missouri governor and Washington University alum, who helped bring the Games to St. Louis.
“This is an exciting moment for Washington University and the St. Louis region,” said Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. “The name Francis Olympic Field serves to reaffirm our historic ties to the Olympic Games. It also uplifts the university’s long-standing commitment to athletics; the values of respect and human dignity regardless of background; and increased access to education, health, and wellness – hallmarks of our WashU identify.”
The Francis Olympic Field renaming is another major milestone in the St. Louis Sports Commission’s effort to raise the profile and impact of St. Louis’ status as an Olympic city. The Sports Commission’s Olympic Legacy Committee partnered with Washington University to propose the new name, which was approved by the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. The new name, the Olympic rings, and text proclaiming the venue was site of the 1904 Games will appear on the Francis Olympic Field press box. Additionally, the historic gates on the east side of the field have been updated.
“This is a tremendous honor and opportunity to receive approval to rename Francis Field as Francis Olympic Field,” said Michael Loynd, chair of the St. Louis Olympic Legacy Committee. “It’s yet another visible step to immortalize the importance of St. Louis and Francis Field to the Olympic Movement. We are grateful to the IOC and USOPC for providing this opportunity and for recognizing the value for Olympic cities to celebrate their legacies and promote the Olympic spirit.”
The renaming of Francis Field follows last year’s unveiling of the 16-foot-by-9-foot Olympic Rings “Spectacular” on Washington University’s campus. The sculpture has since been an attraction for tourists and residents alike while serving as a symbol of St. Louis’ contribution to the Olympic Movement. The St. Louis Games were responsible for a number of Olympic “firsts,” including being the first Olympics to take place in the Western Hemisphere; the first to award gold, silver and bronze medals; the first to include diving, boxing, freestyle-wrestling, and the decathlon; and the first to include an African-American Olympian – George Coleman Poage, who won two bronze medals in the hurdles and remained in St. Louis to teach at Sumner High School. St. Louis is one of only three cities in the United States to host the Summer Games, and one of only 43 cities in the world to host the Olympic Games.
In addition to the Olympic Rings Spectacular and the Francis Field renaming, the Sports Commission’s Olympic Legacy Committee will soon unveil signage identifying all the venues that hosted 1904 Olympic events and the Olympic marathon route. Also, as part of the worldwide celebration of Olympic day every June, the organization invites young people from around the region to Francis Olympic Field to run the track with Jackie Joyner-Kersee and other area Olympians. And next June, the Sports Commission hosts the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials – Gymnastics at Enterprise Center, positioning St. Louis on the road to Tokyo for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. All of these initiatives are part of the Sports Commission’s vision to impact St. Louis through its opportunities as an Olympic city.
The initiatives of the St. Louis Olympic Legacy Project are funded through private donations, with significant support from the Interco Charitable Trust. Those interested in contributing to the effort can make a tax-deductible donation to the St. Louis Sports Foundation and specify it be directed to the Olympic Legacy Project. Donations can be made online at stlouis1904legacy.org.
The St. Louis Sports Commission is the privately-funded nonprofit organization that grows, strengthens and moves St. Louis forward through sports. The organization uses the power of sports to enhance the area’s quality of life and generate economic and social benefit for the St. Louis region.