EDITOR'S NOTE: On Tuesday, The V.I. Daily News will begin previewing all of the U.S. Virgin Islands athletes participating in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
ST. THOMAS - U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic Committee executive board members Hans Lawaetz, Angel Morales and Leonard Bonelli Sr. walked into the USVI Olympic Committee Exhibit in downtown St. Thomas on Saturday, and it was like a walk down memory lane.
The two-room exhibit in Royal Dane Mall depicts the history of the Olympics, the territory's involvement in the Games and features several information panels, pieces of artwork and memorabilia.
It opens for the public today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will remain open every day throughout the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, which will be held from July 27 through Aug. 12. Admission is free.
"Our initial goal was to promote the Olympic movement in the Virgin Islands," said exhibit organizer Yuri Gaspar, who is also the USVI Winter Sports general secretary. "You would be surprised. A lot of people we talk to don't even know we're sending athletes to London."
The USVI is sending track and field athletes Tabarie Henry, LaVerne Jones-Ferrette, Allison Peter, and Muhammad Halim; laser sailors Mimi Roller and Cy Thompson; and freestyle swimmer Branden Whitehurst to the Games.
The territory has participated in every Summer Olympic Games since 1968, except for the 1980 Games, which were held in Russia and boycotted by the United States.
"There's a lot of history to be presented here, and I encourage every Virgin Islander to visit the exhibit," said Lawaetz, who is the USVI Olympic Committee president. "It's great to see this kind of community support. I think it will be a big boost for the athletes getting ready for the Games."
Gaspar described the exhibit as a lounge area for local residents and tourists walking around downtown. There are two 42-inch flat screen televisions inside air-conditioned rooms that will be playing live coverage of the Olympics, starting with the opening ceremonies on July 27.
"One main thing we will feature is the schedule for when each of our USVI athletes will be competing at the upcoming Games," said Gaspar, whose 17-year-old daughter, Veronica, represents the USVI in alpine skiing. "Of course, if there is a final or something, we will stay open later or earlier so Virgin Islanders can take in all the action at the exhibit."
There are also preliminary plans to move the exhibit to St. Croix and St. John in the coming weeks but those plans are pending office space and security, Gaspar said.
The USVI Olympic Committee executive board, USVI sports federation representatives and Gov. John deJongh Jr. were among the guests at the exhibit's grand opening on Saturday.
- Contact sports writer Aaron Gray at 714-9102 or email email@example.com.