Speeches & Commentary

Francis Olympic Field Renaming Ceremony

Good evening.  Thank you, Mike, for your generous introduction and gift, and of course, for your involvement as chair of the St. Louis Olympic Legacy Committee.  And thank you to everyone for being here as we celebrate this momentous occasion.

I also want to give a special shout out and thanks to the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the St. Louis Sports Commission, and our incredible athletics department and team here at Washington University who helped make this happen.  And of course to all our Olympians who are here to help us celebrate.

As we just heard in the voiceover from St. Louis’ very own Bob Costas, this field was originally named for David R. Francis who was integral in helping bring the Olympic Games here to St. Louis along with the World’s Fair in 1904.  And today, 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.

But today, we don’t just celebrate one historic moment.  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.

Since then, we’ve continued to champion the role sports play in preparing highly driven, resilient, and values-oriented leaders.

We’ve continued to uplift the values of unity through diversity as we champion all our athletes regardless of background or identity — including our female student-athletes, our LGBTQ+ student-athletes, our international student-athletes, and our student-athletes of color.

We’ve continued to partner with members and organizations within the wider community to increase access to sports, especially for those who come from underrepresented populations.

And we’ve continued to host community-wide events that celebrate pride in athletics and the St. Louis region.

For example, this spring, we recently hosted Olympic Day here on this field along with the St. Louis Sports Commission and the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation.  My daughter Olive and I attended that event where we had the chance to walk around this very track along with other youth and members of the community — many of whom were participants in Jackie’s summer camp, which primarily serves underrepresented youth.

While walking around the track, I was particularly struck by the feeling of pride for all we’ve accomplished as a community since 1904.

I was struck by the true historic significance of it all — that Olympians…gold, silver, and bronze medalists…the best athletes in the world…had been here…in this place…competing at the highest level of competition.

I was struck by the thought that our future leaders and Olympians might have even been running around this track that day this spring.

Overall, I was struck by the fact that the Olympic spirit is very much alive and well in this community.

Here at Washington University, we are immensely proud that we have continued to carry the Olympic torch throughout our history to the present moment.  The renaming of Francis Olympic Field truly solidifies our commitment to these values, and I’m confident we’ll continue to embody the Olympic movement and spirit with us well into the future.

Thank you again for being here to celebrate along with us.  And Let’s Go WashU!