Olympic Day at East Tennessee State University included the lighting of a torch, games and hundreds of participants.
The school hosted its first Olympic Day event, a requirement for Olympic Training Sites, in the ETSU/Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center (Mini Dome) Friday morning. The school was named such a site for weightlifting in April.
The day began at 9 a.m. at City Hall, with the raising of the Olympic flag, followed by the lighting of a torch that was carried to the Mini Dome through downtown. The last leg of the torch run was made by ETSU President Brian Noland’s wife Donna and their son Jackson.
Hundreds of children from area organizations with summer programs were bused in to participate in the day’s activities, which included baseball, softball, sprinting, jumping, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, weightlifting, soccer and arts and crafts.
There are 14 Olympic Training Centers in the country. Only two other centers besides ETSU provide training for weightlifting. One of those is in Colorado Springs, Colo., which is the flagship training center for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Meg Stone will be the director of ETSU’s training site. She competed in the discus for Great Britain in 1980 and 1984 and was a gold medal winner in the 1982 Commonwealth games. She also competed in track and field for the University of Arizona and continues to hold the NCAA shot put and discus collegiate record. In Europe, Stone was the first woman to serve as the national track and field coach for Scotland.
“As a two-time Olympian, it has been really, really important for me to continue that Olympic movement through my career, but also for it to be very, very important to have this design three weeks before the real Olympics take part,” Stone said.
Former ETSU president Paul E. Stanton Jr. helped Noland’s family light a cauldron on stage after they carried the torch into the Dome.
“You know, 10 years ago if anyone said we’d have an Olympic Day at ETSU and be an Olympic Training Site, I’d have said, ‘No way,’ ” Stanton said.
Stanton said ETSU was celebrating Olympic Day because Meg Stone and her husband Mike Stone were hired at ETSU some years ago, and they established a Center of Excellence in Sport Science and Coaching Education and a doctorate program in coach education. The Olympic designation followed those accomplishments.
Stanton encouraged the hundreds of children who attended the event Friday to never give up on their dreams, whether those dreams are to be Olympians, doctors or anything else.
Stone said that was certainly part of the point of the Olympic Day.
“We want that to carry over, those Olympic ideals to carry over to the young people ... in the Dome this morning,” Stone said.
The weightlifting Olympic Training Site already has two students enrolled for this fall, Jordan Beard and May Thompson, who said in April they were excited to begin the program. Both women have an eye toward the 2016 Olympics. Stone said more weightlifters are being recruited, and, in fact, she is speaking with some young men right now who have competed at the junior level in weightlifting.
She said all the athletes accepted into the weightlifting program this summer will begin as students in the fall and begin training to compete in the 2016 Olympics.
“I think right now, you know, who can predict if there will be an Olympian come from Johnson City?” Stone said. “But really there’s no reason why ... the people that we are talking to, if they have that desire in their heart. There’s no reason why they can’t take that step to the Olympic team.”
This year’s Olympics will be held July 27-Aug. 12 in London.
The Olympic Day will be held each June at ETSU.