ST. LOUIS -- A century after becoming the first American
city to host the modern-era Olympic games, St. Louis once again
held the flame.
"The eyes of the world are on St. Louis today," Mayor Francis
Slay said Thursday to the crowd that gathered in the shadow of the
towering Gateway Arch on the flame's second leg of a four-city U.S.
Moments later, a flamekeeper fired up the torch held by
actor-comedian Joe Torry, who circled proudly for all to see and
trotted off, launching the torch's 34-mile tour of the city.
St. Louis' celebration culminated in Forest Park, where Olympic
gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee of nearby East St. Louis, Ill.,
ran down a hill to light the Olympic cauldron Thursday night. She
raised the torch in both hands above her head and lit the cauldron,
which was on a stage.
"This is the greatest. This is the ultimate compliment, and I
am very grateful and very blessed," Joyner-Kersee said.
The flame arrived in St. Louis after kicking off its U.S. tour
in Los Angeles.
St. Louis offered up a huge welcome, with two troupes of
traditional Greek dancers performing before Torry departed. Some of
the women had flowing white gowns, their hair adorned with olive
Gymnastics stars Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner were introduced
to the throng, braving the heat, and off Torry went, eventually
bound for the sprawling green of the city's Forest Park. Bonnie
Blair, who won five gold medals in speedskating, also participated.
"This is very cool," Blair said, a bit breathless in the heat.
"This is a little warmer than the Winter Olympics."
The route also includes a pass by Washington University's
Francis Field, rededicated Wednesday as the site of the
track-and-field events of the sweltering 1904 Games.
It also was to pause at a Greek Orthodox Church to recognize the
games' links to host country Greece.
The flame is visiting previous U.S. Summer Olympic cities -- St.
Louis on Thursday and Atlanta on Friday. It will also be in New
York on Saturday and tour Montreal on Sunday before heading
The flame's 46,800-mile journey began June 4. It passed through
Africa and South America for the first time. The relay will make a
final trip around Greece before arriving in Athens for the opening
ceremony Aug. 13.