Next for Atlanta - 20 Year Anniversary

(ATR) Atlanta '96 bid leaders and volunteers reunite at Centennial Olympic Park...

(ATR) The celebration of Atlanta 1996 bid leaders and volunteers at Centennial Olympic Park was a reunion of old friends.

Nearly 400 people gathered to remember a day in their lives that is part of Atlanta history.

Twenty-five years ago, Sept. 18, these old friends were at another celebration in Tokyo. They were savoring their victory at the IOC Session, defeating perceived favorite Athens to host the 1996 Olympic Games.

Bid leaders Billy Payne and Andrew Young hosted the anniversary Friday night at a marquee in Centennial Olympic Park, considered one of the important legacies of the 1996 Olympics.

Payne greeted guests as they arrived, many of them part of the 350+ who traveled to Tokyo in 1990 to support the last push of the Atlanta bid.

Most of the so-called Atlanta Nine were able to make the event. The group including Payne, Charlie Battle and Ginger Watkins formed the core of the bid

team from 1988 to the IOC vote in 1990. There are plans to honor the group with a monument at the park which is about to undergo its first major renovation since the Olympics ended.

"I feel the impact of the Olympics every day, starting with the park. This was an old warehouse, this was the trashiest district in town with old broken-down warehouses," Young told Around the Rings as he perched on a statue of Pierre de Coubertin in the park.

Young was mayor of Atlanta at the time Payne proposed launching an Olympic bid. After leaving office Young joined the Atlanta bid team, taking full advantage of his international prestigeas a former US ambassador to the United Nations. When Atlanta won the Olympics, Young became co-chair of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

Standing next to Young, Payne said it was great to reminisce with the people who made the Games possible.

"They are the ones who made it happen. I see Andy quite often, but there are some folks here tonight who we haven’t seen in at least 20 years, if not 25 and it’s fantastic to see them," Payne said.

An hour-long tribute to the anniversary featured remarks by Payne and Young and a historical review of the Atlanta bid by Charlie Battle, covering the span from the nomination by the US Olympic Committee in 1988 to the IOC vote in Tokyo. Payne announced plans for a tribute wall in the park for the Atlanta Nine and a group of business leaders who backed the bid in its early stages.

Next July will bring another anniversary to commemorate in Atlanta – – the 20th anniversary of opening ceremony for the 1996 Games. Payne says to expect a much bigger celebration than the invitation only event he hosted Friday night.

"Next year is going to be a celebration for everyone. The volunteers, the people provided the venues, the universities. Next year it will be everybody who was involved. I don’t know if the park is able to hold all those people but we’ll try," Payne said.

Written by Kevin Nutley and Ed Hula

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