Francis Field, the venerable stadium on the Danforth Campus of Washington University in St. Louis that was the site of the first Olympiad in the Western Hemisphere, was rededicated Sept. 21 as Francis Olympic Field.
The new name, sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, recognizes the stadium’s role as the main venue for the 1904 Olympic games and represents another milestone in securing Washington University’s — and St. Louis’ — legacy in the Olympic movement.
“We are extremely honored and proud to rename this field Francis Olympic Field as an official recognition of that historic moment and this field’s continued use,” Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said in a ceremony at halftime of the Washington University Bears football game against North Central College, in front of a crowd estimated to be close to 2,000 students, parents, alumni and friends.
“But today, we don’t just celebrate one historic moment,” Martin said. “We also celebrate the Olympic movement and spirit that has continued to take hold in this community ever since the Olympic Games were held here.”
Francis Olympic Field, completed in 1904 for the Olympic Games, is home to the university’s football team, as well as men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross-country and men’s and women’s track and field teams. It is the oldest modern Olympic stadium still in active use.
The renaming is yet another result of a partnership between the St. Louis Sports Commission and Washington University to promote St. Louis’ Olympic legacy. In September 2018, an Olympic five-ring “Spectacular” was unveiled just northeast of the stadium at the end of Olympian Way. The 16-by-9-foot stainless steel structure sits on a block of granite and has become a popular photo op and meeting place on the Danforth Campus.
This time, the sign atop the historic Francis Field gates was refabricated with the new name, a distinction unique because of all the venues in the United States that have held Olympic competitions, only Francis Field has been given permission to include “Olympic” in its name. The press box also was repainted to reflect the new moniker and include the five interlaced Olympic rings.
But if last year’s Olympic dedication on campus was “spectacular,” this year it was gold — in the form of a replica gold medal from the 1904 Olympics presented to Martin.
Following a short video history of the St. Louis 1904 games narrated by broadcaster Bob Costas, the chancellor was presented with the medal representing the 1904 games as the first to award gold, silver and bronze medals to athletes.
Washington University alumnus Michael Loynd, JD ’99, a local attorney who has spearheaded the effort as chairman of the Sports Commission’s Olympic Legacy Committee, also made remarks and presented the medal to Martin.
A number of St. Louis-area Olympians participated in the halftime ceremony. They were: soccer players John Carenza and Ty Keough; speedskaters Jim Chapin and Brendan Eppert; weightlifter Derrick Crass; triathlete Sarah Haskins; figure skater Stacey Smith; and Michelle Venturella, Washington University head softball coach and a member of the 2000 gold medal-winning softball team. Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, was also on hand, as was Lori White, vice chancellor for student affairs, who is known to be a huge sports fan.
“I love the Olympic Games,” White said, “and I am so excited that we have formally commemorated Francis Olympic Field, which will now be forever associated with other hallowed Olympic stadiums including the Los Angeles Coliseum where, like this one, I have attended many football games.
“It’s great to celebrate both where the Olympic movement began in the United States, and our scholar champions on the field.”