Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Blaze of Glory Torch Gets Olympian Welcome

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Blaze of Glory Torch Gets Olympian Welcome

Article excerpt

The area's most decorated Olympian carried the torch down the stairs at the Arch Tuesday night to complete the St. Louis leg of a 15,000-mile American journey to the 1996 games in Atlanta.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee served as anchor, or final runner, of a 14-hour relay that wound through Jefferson County, south St. Louis County and St. Louis to the riverfront. She lit her torch from the previous runner's torch in a "handoff" near the Adam's Mark Hotel and breezed her way across the Arch lawn and down the stairs to a stage near the river's edge.

There, she used her torch to light a cauldron. The burst of flame delighted the already noisy crowd that jammed the hillside and the wide sidewalk on top.

The running distance from the hotel wasn't much of a challenge for a holder of three gold medals, and one each of silver and bronze, from the last three Olympics. And she is prepared to try out for this summer's games.

Joyner-Kersee, 34, told the crowd that she would return after the Atlanta games to promote her plans for a youth community center in East St. Louis, where she grew up. She graduated from East St. Louis Lincoln High School in 1980.

"I stand before you as a symbol of hope, a girl who grew up in East St. Louis," she said. "I train very hard. I've got to transfer that to what I can do for the community. You don't have to be great athletes to strive to be great people."

Before Joyner-Kersee arrived, the crowd listened to a concert by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by composer John Williams. Afterward, a 10-minute fireworks show was fired from a barge.

The trek of the Olympic flame last came through St. Louis and past the Arch in 1984 on its way to the Los Angeles games, where Joyner-Kersee won the silver medal in the heptathlon, an event that includes races and field events, such as the shot put and javelin throw.

The flame also arrived here for the 1904 Olympics, which were held at Washington University's Francis Field during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, or St. Louis World's Fair.

The flame, taken from Greece, left Los Angeles on April 27. It entered Missouri on Monday by train from Memphis to Cape Girardeau. …

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