How Did the Olympics Come to Latin?


A low angle shot of the Lucky 8 in front of the Science, Art, and Technology building on Charlotte Latin School. (Lucy Dempsey)

Written By Lucy Dempsey and Tommy Beason

As one walks towards the entrace to the SAT building, the Lucky 8 Sculpture sits, waiting for someone to test their luck. (Lucy Dempsey)

The international athletic competition known as the Olympics has taken place almost every four years since the first games in Athens, Greece, in 1896. According to NPR, The last Olympic Games took place during the winter of 2022 in Beijing and had an average total audience of 11.4 million viewers. You may be thinking to yourself: how could an international event of that magnitude come to a private school in Charlotte, North Carolina? In reality, a regular day at Charlotte Latin does not involve the likes of Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, nor does it even come close to representing the 206 countries which take part in the Olympics. But, there is a piece of the 2008 Olympics that came all the way from Beijing, China to Latin, and it is still here to this day. 

Walking to or from the Science, Art and Technology Building (SAT), attentive Hawks will note a colorful statue shining brightly under the blazing sunlight. 

Stop right there. 

This sculpture, in a prominent place on campus, is just that piece of the Olympics. 

Because of that 7,000 plus mile journey, the Latin community can now enjoy this symbolic artwork daily. This work is a replica of a John Hair piece, known as the “Lucky 8.” According to the artist’s official website, Hair was the official sculptor for the U.S. Olympic Team and the U.S. Olympic Committee, which was a title he held from 2003-2008. The Huntersville-born sculptor created the original “Lucky 8” with the inspiration to bring good luck to the Olympic Games. The sculpture was an integral part of the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics, and the world first saw the original “Lucky 8” on August 8, 2008, at 8:08 a.m. In Chinese culture, the number eight represents great luck, and Hair was inspired by this belief. The sculpture Hair created features a paint treatment that changes colors depending on the sun’s angle and light creating a dramatic look. The work is in the shape of an eight and allows for many different visual effects, allowing a different perspective of the sculpture depending on the viewer’s angle. The electric neon colors catch the viewer’s eye from afar, especially when the sculpture is reflecting in the sun. Walking around the sculpture and standing its shadow provides the viewer good luck. 

Jon Hair poses by his sculpture, Lucky 8 in Beijing International Sculpture Park in Beijing China in 2008. (

This internationally recognized work now stands in the Beijing International Sculpture Park, thanks to a generous gift, the replica stands on Charlotte Latin’s campus, due to a generous gift. The Belk family donated the replica to Charlotte Latin school on May 9, 2009 in honor of its family members. The inscription bears the following message: “This sculpture was dedicated in honor of his family members who have been members of Latin’s Board of Trustees” (Charlotte Latin Magazine). Additionally, a plaque lists the Belk family members: Carol Grotnes Belk (Ike Belk’s wife), who was the founding trustee from 1970-1984; Carl G. Belk, a trustee from 1990-2009 (Ike and Carol Belk’s son); and Anne R. Belk, a trustee from 2003-2008 (Carl Belk’s wife). Because of his membership within the U.S Olympic Committee, Ike Belk commissioned the Hair replica to show his appreciation for Charlotte Latin School. Belk even received the prestigious Olympic Order, an award presented by the international Olympic Committee. To become an Olympic Committee member, one must be elected in a general meeting with Olympic Committee members who cast a vote.

Jackie Simpson (associate vice chancellor and director of housing and residence life), Irwin “Ike” Belk, Carl Belk (Ike’s son), and Art Jackson (vice chancellor for student affairs) smile by a plaque which formally dedicates residence hall at The University Of North Carolina at Charlotte to Carl Belk in October 2013. (

So the next time you find yourself on Charlotte Latin’s campus, you may stroll past a fluorescent piece of the Olympics, and this time, you will recognize it. If you are ever in need of some luck on campus, now you know where to go! Just take a walk over to the SAT building and locate the Lucky 8. Stand in the shadow of the statue and test your luck. This sculpture holds a special place on campus and will continue to shine luck on the Charlotte Latin students and faculty as long as the sun shines.