HARTFORD, Conn., July 13, 2010 – From street pole banners to window coverings to building and bridge banners, vibrant imagery featuring gymnasts and the artwork of four-time Olympic discus gold-medalist Al Oerter will be on display throughout Hartford, Conn., in conjunction with the upcoming 2010 Visa Championships, Aug. 10-14. USA Gymnastics has partnered with Art of the Olympians in creating a dynamic cultural component in celebration of its largest annual event.

“This will be truly unique,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “Art and culture are important components of the Olympic movement, and Al Oerter was one of the most enduring athletes of the modern Olympic era. He was a champion in every respect. This effort will provide a stunning visual presence for the Visa Championships, and Al’s influence will certainly add inspiration to the athletic performances and enjoyment for all who will visit Hartford.”

“I just wish Al was here to see this,” said Cathy Oerter, Al’s wife and Art of the Olympians founder. “It would have made him very happy as he loved the transition from sport to art and enjoyed people finding his paintings worthy. This is a wonderful opportunity to display his art in a way that brings athleticism to the forefront of his creativity.”

Along with the citywide presence, an exhibition of artwork from the Art of the Olympians gallery will be on display and is expected to feature art by the late Oerter and other well-known Olympians, such as Florence Griffith-Joyner and Bob Beamon. In addition, five-time Olympian Liston Bochette III will create an original piece of gymnastics-themed artwork during the event. Art of the Olympians is dedicated to demonstrating the true relationship between art and sport to the general public and recently opened its gallery in Fort Myers, Florida.

The elements of the visual campaign feature four pieces of Oerter’s artwork, “Flight,” “Ignition,” “Jigsaw” and “Thought-full.” “Flight” is the foundation for most of the visuals.

Various parts of the visual presence plan will begin appearing in Hartford in July. For more information on the Visa Championships and the ancillary activities and exhibitions, go to http://www.usagym.org/visa.

Background information

Art of the Olympians. Art of the Olympians is dedicated to demonstrating the very real relationship between art and sport to the general public. The athlete artists have the ability to express this because of their many years of well directed training for sport and the transfer of this discipline to their art. The Art of the Olympians Center of Excellence celebrates the constant challenge to achieve greatness in physical, artistic, and educational endeavors. In recognition of founder Al Oerter’s long-standing commitment to the ancient Olympic ideals and his contribution to Olympic sport, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) granted Art of the Olympians legal use of the word "Olympian," which is actually protected by an act of Congress. The Art of the Olympians Museum and the Al Oerter Center for Excellence are located in Fort Myers, Fla. For more information, call 239-332-5055.

Al Oerter. Considered one of the greatest modern Olympic competitors, Al Oerter was the first athlete to win four gold medals at four successive Olympiads and the only athlete to set four consecutive Olympic records. He won the discus gold medal in Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960), Tokyo (1964) and Mexico City (1968). Oerter retired after the 1968 Games to help raise his two daughters and continue his management career in the computer industry. He resumed training in 1976 at age 40 and, in May 1980, threw his best official throw ever, 227 feet 11 inches. This throw could have won the 1980 Olympic gold medal, but the United States did not participate in the Olympic Games in Moscow. Oerter worked in data processing management for almost 30 years and enjoyed his career in promotions and as a successful motivational speaker. A member of 18 Halls of Fame, he was the first athlete recipient of The Olympic Order, the highest award issued by the International Olympic Committee. Oerter was a successful abstract artist and founder of Art of the Olympians. His heroes were the abstract artists who broke new ground in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Oerter died in 2007.

Liston Bochette III, Ph.D. A five-time Olympian, Bochette held various national competitive records and has multiple degrees to his credit, culminating in a Ph.D. He attended Inter-American University of Puerto Rico and the University of Florida, where he is a Hall-of-Famer. Among his numerous awards are USSA Sport Artist of the Year. As former Secretary General of the World Olympians Association, his presence on the Board of Art of the Olympians is invaluable. He is very active in both the international sport community as well as his local community. He has the unique distinction of being the only member artist who is also a director for Art of Olympians.

2010 Visa Championships. The Visa Championships determine the U.S. champions and the national team for each discipline for both the junior and senior elite levels in four disciplines. NBC Sports and Universal Sports will broadcast and webcast the action from the men’s and women’s gymnastics competitions. Tickets are on sale now and available through Ticketmaster.com. For more information, go to http://www.usagym.org/visa. The USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show, held in conjunction with the Visa Championships, will be conducted at the Connecticut Convention Center. The USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show is the annual gathering of professional members that offers educational and business sessions, a large exhibitor’s hall and other business and educational opportunities.

Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau. The award-winning Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau works in partnership with Hartford’s businesses, institutions, nonprofit organizations, and surrounding communities to market the entire region – all convention and meeting venues, hotels and attractions – as a premier destination for national, regional and statewide conventions. The Greater Hartford Sports Commission, a division of the GHCVB, focuses its efforts on attracting and serving international, national and regional sporting events. The Bureau’s staff has been working with USA Gymnastics for several years, providing a wide range of convention services and marketing support to ensure that the Visa Championships and the Congress are successful. This includes the development of: business, community and restaurant partnerships; special events, tours and promotions; and a variety of print and on- line outreach and welcome materials for the athletes and their fans.

XL Center. The XL Center, which was built in 1975, will host two days of competition for both men’s and women’s gymnastics. The XL Center is home to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League, and the home away from home for the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball programs. In addition to the resident teams, the XL Center entertains millions of visitors annually with a variety of concerts, family shows, ice-skating spectaculars, consumer events and trade shows throughout the season. The XL Center has been the proud host of the Big East Conference Women’s Basketball Championship for the past five years and has extended its contract until 2011.

Chase Arena. Chase Arena, located at the University of Hartford, will host the rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline and tumbling competition. Chase Arena, which seats 3,500, is part of the Reich Family Pavilion in the University of Hartford’s Sports Center and serves as the home of the university’s basketball teams and other intercollegiate programs, as well as a variety of special events. Located in West Hartford, the university enrolls more than 7,000 students.