Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Olympic Festival's Lasting Legacy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Olympic Festival's Lasting Legacy

Article excerpt

When a group of local visionaries set out more than four years ago to bring the U.S. Olympic Festival to St. Louis, they had in mind an event that would not only entertain our community but create a lasting legacy of benefits for the region - the development of world-class athletic facilities, the tremendous economic impact from hosting the event and a community spirit rededicated to improving the lives of our youths.

Thanks to efforts of the festival staff, thousands of volunteers and a number of community leaders, much of this legacy is in place. The new track and field stadium in Edwardsville and the swimming and diving center in St. Peters are state-of-the-art facilities that not only will host America's finest athletes during the festival, July 1-10, but will be available to local athletes afterward. Generous contributions from business and civic organizations and strong ticket sales, coupled with the construction costs of the facilities, guarantee that the festival will make a major economic impact on the region.

However, it is the challenge of utilizing the 1994 festival to create ongoing opportunities for the region that makes the event a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the St. Louis area. And it is this aspect of the legacy that lies ahead of us.

In January, the festival organization took steps to ensure full community participation on our board of directors by adding 11 at-large members from a cross section of the region. We also restructured the office of the chairman, now made up of the chairman and two co-vice chairmen. The board's diverse composition is not politically correct window dressing. Board members are working hard, tackling issues head on. This board can serve as a model for future regional organizations because the membership is taking action, not just discussing it.

A diversity committee made up of board members has been instrumental in reaching out to African-American leaders for their input and in establishing lines of communication. The board also has helped ensure that staff hiring reflects race and gender balance. For instance, more than 25 percent of our 40 paid staff members are African-Americans. …

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