Olympic Aftermath: Its time for our second wind to kick in! by James K. Davis

Let me make this confession: I’ve still got Olympic fever. And I sincerely hope that I’m not alone in feeling this way.

I imagine some of you are scoffing, “Get over it, Jim.”

But I don’t want to get over it. Frankly, I’m concerned that Atlantans and Georgians have done just that -- gotten over the Olympics and moved on. If that’s true, then what a shame; what a major disappointment.

My involvement in the ‘96 Olympics dates to a telephone call I received from former Atlanta Mayor Andy Young, inviting me to join the group working on Atlanta’s bid to host the Games. I got pretty excited about the possibilities.

And what an impact the Games have had! People all over the world have a greater appreciation for our city, our state, and our region. The experience we gained from staging the world’s greatest peace-time event is incalculable. Moreover, the Olympics lured new businesses, rejuvenated neighborhoods, and left for our enjoyment landmark sports venues, college dormitories, public art, the Centennial Olympic Park, and more.

So why am I still so restless?

Because as I reflect on the ‘96 Games, it seems to me we are squandering the greatest Olympic promise, not to mention the very ideal upon which the modern Games were revived: the uplift of humanity.

As much as anything, it was the possibility of spiritual uplift that got me most excited about hosting the Games. From the very beginning, I nurtured this notion that putting on the Olympics would make us better people, nobler citizens. I envisioned that after all the hubbub died down, we would be inspired to take up bold new initiatives to make our city and state an even better place to live:

*... “a bold new plan to make Atlanta the safest city in the world.”

*... “an innovative approach to transforming our public schools.”

*... “the smartest idea yet for addressing the homeless issue.”

*... “a bold new initiative in the area of race relations.”

If the Olympics taught us anything, they taught us the power of stirring people’s imaginations when presenting them with a challenge.

The most uplifting aspect of hosting the Games was the incredible excitement and participation they stirred among everyday people. Thousands volunteered, played the good host and hostess, lined the streets of every kind of neighborhood just to catch a glimpse of the Olympic Torch, and fretted over whether “we” would be ready.

Thank God for those visionaries who set the Olympic vision before us.

But thank God, too, for the thousands who believed in the dream, who worked in the pits and behind the scenes, and who truly hosted those exhilarating days in the summer of ‘96.

Surely this deserves an encore.

After all that we accomplished, I imagined we would be eager to turn loose such magic on ourselves: “Wow! if we can do that, then ...”

Instead we have turned fainthearted. Today, there are surprisingly few visible reminders that the Olympics ever happened. I rarely hear our business, political, religious, civic, and academic leaders invoke the Olympic spirit. What talk there is of leveraging the Games seems narrowly focused, not at all designed to stir the masses.

I can’t help but remember how we portrayed Atlanta as a bastion of human dignity and caring, as we promoted ourselves most worthy to host the momentous centennial celebration of the Games.

My question now is: Are we simply a city that hosted the Games, or are we truly an Olympic City?

If hosting the Olympic Games is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, then we are blessed now with a priceless opportunity to extend the legacy of the Games to more humanitarian pursuits.

We will never duplicate the magic of hosting the Games. We can, however, recapture the Olympic spirit to save our children, create strong families, build vibrant communities, forge strong interracial relations, and pursue equal justice for all.

I look forward to serving on an organizing committee that develops the vision, creates the dazzling video, prepares the knockout presentation, and maps the strategic plans that once more inspire us -- all of us together -- to dream impossible dreams, and to work toward making them happen.

Now that we’ve caught our collective breath, isn’t it about time for our second wind to kick in?

Jim Davis, senior vice president corporate relations for Georgia Power, was a member of the Atlanta Organizing Committee, the body that developed Atlanta’s bid for the Olympic Games.