Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Torch Song: Parade, Music Open Olympic Festival

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Torch Song: Parade, Music Open Olympic Festival

Article excerpt

The strong bodies are here, 2,200 of them. Their torch and dreams are burning as brightly as the July sun, so let the games begin.

St. Louis kicked off its big weekend Friday night with the official opening of the U.S. Olympic Festival in a torch-lighting ceremony on the grounds of the Gateway Arch. The long parade of athletes who will perform in 37 events over the next nine days was the ceremony's highlight.

Bob Costas, the master of ceremonies, said the athletes represent the same commitment to excellence and competitive spirit as the athletes who appeared here 90 years ago during the 1904 Olympics. "Those qualities were the hallmark of the Olympic tradition as it was showcased here nearly a century ago and those qualities have remained the hallmark of that tradition to this very day," said Costas, a television sportscaster.

Costas said the Olympic Festival is the primary development program for future Olympic stars. Since the festival's founding in 1978, its participants have accounted for 344 medals in Winter and Summer Olympic competition.ne

Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner of East St. Louis was the mystery torch bearer. Officials had kept his identity a secret until the last minute Friday night. He won the triple jump in Los Angeles in 1984.

The dignitaries who spoke during the opening ceremonies included Govs. Mel Carnahan of Missouri and Jim Edgar of Illinois; St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr.; St. Louis County Executive George R. "Buzz" Westfall; Dr. Leroy T. Walker, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee; and the world's fastest woman, Florence Griffith Joyner.

Duane Christensen, chairman of the St. Louis festival, also addressed the athletes, saying he understood their dreams.

Although many hope to take home a medal from St. Louis, "for many of you your dream is more ambitious - to use this festival as a stepping stone leading to the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996," said Christensen.

The ceremonies closed with entertainment by the Motown sound of the Four Tops and fireworks. …

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