Life’s Playlist… The Power of the Dream by Celine Dion

For me, today is day 5 of the Jeff Goins 500 Word Challenge.  A program for writers and those of us writer-wannabes to get in the habit of writing every day.  Write a minimum of 500 words each day for 31 days straight.

Today the challenge is:  describe a day in my life I will never forget.  Without sounding cliché, there are too many to choose from, however being one who enjoys a good challenge I will go with this one.

Not necessarily the greatest day in my life or one that changed the trajectory of my life, but certainly one I will never forget.

Friday, July 19, 1996.

On this date in history, the Centennial Summer Olympic Games began in Atlanta.  I lived in Atlanta at the time, moving there in 1986.

For seven years, the city had been working in overdrive to welcome the world to our town.  The city had been made-over and was glistening with new buildings, sporting facilities and the hoopla that surrounds the largest world-wide sporting event.

Going into the Games, I was working for a Special Events company as Creative Director and we worked directly with several corporate clients to coordinate their housing, transportation, ticketing and company events.

I was assigned to a company that has since gone out of business, CIBA-Vision.

During the final days leading up to the Games, the excitement in Georgia was palpable.  The Olympic Torch Relay was making its way through the State and a few days before the Opening Ceremony I was able to travel to my hometown to watch it pass through.

On that late summer evening, my entire community had gathered to watch some of our hometown heroes carry the torch, and as they passed we stood draped in red, white and blue cheering them on, the excitement of the Games had invaded my little Appalachian community and we were overjoyed.

The next day I reported to CIBA Village.  A new apartment complex on the outskirts of Atlanta that was close to the Equestrian Park where the horse competitions would take place.

My team and I readied the apartments for over a thousand guests who would visit over the next 18 days.

Two days before the Games began, a group of ten to twelve of us stood along the street outside our apartment village and watched as the torch made another pass.  Those moments of seeing the Olympic Flame pass within feet of me stirred my soul and gave me a feeling of pride in my community and nation that is difficult to put into words.

Finally, the day of the Opening Ceremonies was upon us.  All the years of planning and execution were now in full swing, the Centennial Olympic Games were about to open in my adopted town, Atlanta, GA.

On the night the ceremonies took place, we hosted several hundred people in a quaint pavilion not far from our complex.

Dinner and decorations and large screen televisions had been brought in for everyone to enjoy the festivities.

From the moment the Opening Ceremonies began the spectacle of the night was enthralling.   Dance routines and aerobatics and Georgia celebrities welcomed the World to our homes.   It was a magical night that still fills me with pride to this day.

One of the great mysteries of the Opening Ceremony was who would be the final torch-bearer to light the Olympic cauldron.

Many names were speculated, but only a very few people knew for sure who it would be.

As Evander Holyfield made his way into the stadium carrying the torch a loud road was heard, not only in the stadium, but in our small pavilion located miles from the official gathering.

Holyfield would have been a perfect choice, a Georgian, Olympian and worldwide sporting champion.  However, Evander Holyfield was met on the field by Janet Evans, an American Olympic hero in swimming, it would be amazing to have a woman light the torch.

As Janet Evans made her way towards the cauldron it appeared that she had been bestowed the honor, but then it happened.

Out of the darkness a lone figure appeared, frail but mighty.  The Greatest of All Time, Muhammad Ali walked out to greet Evans and receive the flame and the adulation of thousands in the stands and watching on television who cheered his presence.

I still remember hearing NBC’s announcer, Dick Enberg joyfully shout into his microphone, “Oh my, it’s the Greatest!” and with that, Ali turned and pressed the flame to a bal that passed through the night sky and into the cauldron,  the flame was lit.  Set aglow by the greatest athlete of all-time, a legend in sports and an American treasure.

Over the next weeks, Atlanta and the World celebrated the excellence of athletes from around the world.  There was drama, grace and unfortunately a terrorist attack the forever marred the wonder of those days in Atlanta.

As amazing as the Games of Atlanta were, that one night, when the excitement of the world focused on a flame set aglow by Muhammad Ali will live within me forever.

Life’s Playlist…. Georgia, On My Mind performed by Gladys Knight

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

It’s Atlanta

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.

One Nation…..

Usually when I sit down to write my Sunday post, I have an outline in my head about what I am going to write, that is not the case today.

I had planned on writing a light-hearted post about the Eclipse; unfortunately the circumstances of the last eight days does not allow me to do that.

For the last week I have battled myself as to whether or not I even wanted to write this post.  I try to stay non-political, but I know if I am going to be honest with myself and the people who honor me with reading what I write, I have to write this post…… if only I knew what to say.

I think like many of you, I have no idea how to even address the issues that face our nation when it comes to race, but why should we, our nation has battled this issue for the last 200 years and we still can’t get it right, so I am just going to jump in, share my thoughts and let them lie.

I have a feeling what I say won’t be popular with either side, but here goes, as I sit here in front of my keyboard I still don’t know what to say.

Like many of you I have been shocked by the comments and actions we have seen played out on our television screens over the last week.  How have we gotten the issue of race in America so wrong for over two centuries and we still don’t have any end in sight to what tears us apart as a nation?

I am a son of the South, I grew up in rural Georgia, moved to Atlanta after college and then on to south-Florida and back home again just two short years ago.

During my time on this earth I have been fortunate to live and work in some of the most vibrant multi-cultural cities in our nation.  Atlanta;  West Palm Beach, Florida;  Lake Park, Florida;  Orlando, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va and my home Clayton, GA.  In each and every one of these communities I have worked with, laughed with, cried with and loved people of all races.

I deplore racism on every front, but I deplore racism on ALL sides.  In my life I have found just as many white people as black people who disgust me in their actions and beliefs.

I am a white middle-aged man, I do not think I am better or worse than any other person on this planet.  I was taught to respect my fellow-man and honor them for the character they create, their actions and their work-ethic, not their past, their heritage or the political affiliation they identify with.

Some say, as a white man I have privilege, I don’t.  I have worked for everything I have ever gotten in my life and I am proud of the life I have built for myself through hard-work and dedication.

We have all seen racism and bigotry played out through the history of our nation, it’s despicable.  Allow me to relate two stories that happened to me during the 1980’s, both still disgust me today.

When I was in college one of my best friends was a black woman named Lisa.  We shared a Major and became friends through group projects, club affiliations and studies.

Our college was in a small town in south-Georgia.  One Saturday, Lisa and I were working on a project and needed to run into town to pick up some supplies.

As we walked down the Main Street of the town, a small group of KKK members were assembled in front of us.  Obviously Lisa was nervous, but steadfast that we needed to get where we were going.  We walked directly towards the small group of hate when one of the members of the group approached me and said “boy, what are you doing with that?”  THAT!?!?

I was with a young woman of grace, dignity and intelligence who was working towards a college degree, a young woman who would make an impact on the world.

While I wanted to share my feelings with this pig who had spewed his hate on us, I didn’t.  I didn’t because Lisa continued to look forward, stood tall and kept walking.  I learned a lesson that day, when hate is ignored it is silenced.

When we finished our errand, Lisa walked back towards the group, there were no comments thrown our way, only silenced haters by a young woman who showed what character is made of.

The second incident occurred in the late 80’s in Atlanta.  As the annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration was approaching, my friends Greg and David and I decided we would attend the parade to honor Dr. King and the vision of an America free of hate that he dreamed of.

On the day of the parade, the three of us boarded a MARTA train headed into downtown to participate in the festivities.

During the short train ride to the parade route we heard a few comments from others on the train, it was uncomfortable but we knew it would be OK once we got to Peachtree Street.

It wasn’t.

During that afternoon we were ridiculed and shouted at, it was made clear to us that three white guys were not welcome and instead of showing our support for Dr. King’s Dream, we left before the parade could even begin.

Certainly we all have stories we can relate regarding race, these are just two, but they exemplify the problem we have as a country…. BOTH sides have people who stand in their corner who do more damage than good, BOTH sides have a long way to move before we can truly be the UNITED States of America and BOTH sides need to listen and talk more than stepping up on their soapbox in an effort to prove their misguided point.

In my soul I know that these bigots, racists and hate groups are a very small minority, but let us be clear they stand on both sides of the argument.

President Donald Trump hurt the conversation this week with his comments, and as many of you, I was repulsed by what he said; however, if you are repulsed by the President’s comments and not equally repulsed when Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal publicly stated she hopes the President is assassinated you have a problem.

This week, Democratic House Leader, Nancy Pelosi said the statues of Confederates in the US Capitol have always been offensive and called on Speaker of the House Ryan to have them removed.

My question for Ms. Pelosi is, if they have ALWAYS been offensive why didn’t she call for their removal when she was Speaker of the House?

The hypocrisy of our elected leaders is offensive to the constituents they represent.  At some point we as Americans have to tackle this issue on our own and stop allowing the grand-standers who live off the public dole to set the agenda.  These elected individuals are not who should be changing the hearts and minds of Americans, that is our job, they should be working on creating jobs, the economy, our nation’s safety and stop trying to shirk their responsibilities as elected officials to govern.

There are those who now call for the removal of all Confederate monuments around the country, if and when they are removed what happens next?  Will we remove monuments of our Jewish leaders, Hispanic, Black, Gay, Italian, Christian, when we cover up our history we don’t have a chance to learn from the mistakes of the past and grow towards a more perfect union.

I have been blessed to know and love people of all races, creeds and sexual orientations.  I have known very few people in my life who are not accepting of others, because I choose not to allow that type of bigotry to infiltrate my life.

Thankfully I know our nation is filled with people like me, it’s now time we put the hate groups in the trash where they belong and work as a nation to stitch together this great divide created by a few.

Love always wins, it’s time we the majority, those who truly love our land and it’s people, prove it!

Life’s Playlist…. Power of the Dream performed by Celine Dion

Twenty-one years ago the eyes of the world focused on Atlanta, GA for the start of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

The stage was set and after almost ten years of planning, Atlanta welcomed the world.

I lived in Atlanta during the build-up and celebration of the Centennial Olympiad.  It was a heady time filled with the most incredible displays of athletic prowess I have ever seen.

Those days and years leading up to the Games also showcased a spirit of community that all of us who lived in Atlanta, and worked on the Games, could be proud of.

Unfortunately, the actions of a mad man tarnished the magnificence of Atlanta 1996, but his actions cannot and should not be what we remember when we think of that magical summer.

I will always remember those days for the joy we felt as years of planning came to fruition.  I will remember the friends I made from around the world, and I will remember the unity of the athletes proving that we as a world can  co-exist, even if only for a couple of weeks.

Atlanta 1996 was a resounding success and 21 years later, the differences the Games made on the City are still evident.

Atlanta’s Olympic flame shone bright and still does today.

 

Short Notes – 11.11.13

Veterans Day – Life’s Playlist, God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood

The Atlanta Braves are moving from Downtown to the suburbs.  If the powers that be in Atlanta don’t understand why, there is a much bigger problem on the horizon for the city!

Words

What’s Cooking – Banana Nut Bread

11.11.13

11.11.13 – Palm Beach, FL