On this date in 1990, Atlanta was awarded the Summer Centennial Games Host City Designation. Below is a blog post I wrote in 2009 remembering that day.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
As I watched the excitement this week in Rio, when they were awarded the Summer Olympic Games of 2016, I couldn’t help but reflect back on a summer, not so long ago, when I lived in Atlanta and the same excitement exploded in the City, placing the capital of the South on the world stage.
I moved to Atlanta immediately after graduating college in 1986 and the City was just beginning to gear up for its bid to host the Centennial Olympic Games. Atlanta was considered a long shot with Athens, Greece the sentimental favorite. Other competing cities for the bid were Melbourne, Belgrade, Manchester and Toronto.
For years Atlanta pushed its bid, Olympic officials visited the city and the excitement of what could be pulsed through the veins of the city like an impeding Christmas morning. Those of us who lived in Atlanta knew what winning the Games could do for our town, transforming an otherwise sleepy metropolis into a bustling world-renowned focal point.
As the days grew near, leading up to the bid announcement, preparations were made and a grand victory announcement party was planned for downtown on the morning of September 18th, 1990.
In the days before the awarding, my family suffered a crisis, Aunt Laura Bea, was hospitalized and family was called to Atlanta as her status was not good. Aunt Laura Bea was ma-ma’s sister, my great aunt, a sweet southern belle with a loving strength that kept us all in line. Cousins from around the country flew in to be with Aunt Laura Bea and during the time I reconnected with my cousin Dede from Houston who I had not seen since we were both children.
Dede and I hit it off immediately, becoming fast friends, a relationship that remains strong today.
On the night before the bid announcement I was visiting with the family when my cousin Tina, who also lived in Atlanta, mentioned that we should go to the announcement party together. I jumped at the chance to go to the event with Tina and we invited Dede to go along with us.
On the morning of the 18th, I met up with Tina and Dede before sunrise. The announcement would be made in Tokyo, many hours ahead of us, making it necessary for the announcement party to begin during the early morning hours.
Mass transportation was filled that morning, it seemed as though everyone was headed for Undergound Atlanta, the cities gathering spot and host of the Olympic announcement party. Arriving on the site, Dede, Tina and I found a spot on the plaza steps to be a part of the festivities.
As Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic Committee strode up to the microphone to announce the winners after the fifth and final round vote, the only two cities left in the competition were Athens and Atlanta. He took the stage and in one breath made the announcement, a hush fell over the crowd and Mr. Samaranch said “the International Olympic Committee has awarded the 1996 Olympic Games to the City of …Atlanta!”
Hearing those words, the crowds assembled took one collective breath and then PANDEMONIUM! Underground Atlanta, the City of Atlanta and the entire United States erupted in a celebration that I had never experienced up until that time.
We hugged, jumped, clapped and cheered!
No work was done that day as people filed out of their offices and into the streets for a giant celebration. Tina, Dede and I toured the city, we walked from location to location and within an hour had our collector’s edition newspaper with the headline…. “It’s Atlanta!”
Leading up to the Olympic announcement I had been toying with the idea of moving. I knew that I would eventually wind up in Florida and the time seemed right to make that move. As the words rolled off Juan Antonio Samaranch’s lips I decided in that instance to remain in Atlanta until after the Olympics. Living in an Olympic city is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I was determined to experience the next six years as a proud Atlantan.
The days party stretched long into the evening. Eventually Tina went home and Dede and I were joined by my friend Charlie. The three of us painted the town gold, we laughed and celebrated one magical day that will live in my memory forever.
Over the next few years, Atlanta moved forward and eventually hosted those Games. We didn’t do everything right, but for the most part the Games were a huge success. The media wasn’t too kind to the City, but as someone who was there, I will tell you the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games made me proud to be an Atlantan.