Opinion: Reflecting on a past glory, and where we are now

06-03-2021 Atlanta, Ga Inside the home of Ambassador Andrew Young we see a trophy table with the cover of The Atlanta Journal marking the news of the Olympics coming to Atlanta. (Tyson Horne / tyson.horne@ajc.com)
Caption
06-03-2021 Atlanta, Ga Inside the home of Ambassador Andrew Young we see a trophy table with the cover of The Atlanta Journal marking the news of the Olympics coming to Atlanta. (Tyson Horne / tyson.horne@ajc.com)

Credit: Tyson Horne

Credit: Tyson Horne

FROM THE 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES’ CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

When I began my work on the Atlanta Olympic Games in March of 1991, I somehow knew that I would at some point look back on that magnificent event as a distant memory.

The celebration 20 years after the Games was an epiphany for me. It was hard to take because memories were still vivid, sore spots were still tender and joys still made my eyes glisten.

Now at 25 years, I realize our age. It’s been a generation and many of us were not even alive or were too young to remember when Atlanta hosted “the largest peacetime event in history,” as Games organizer Billy Payne put it.

Well, friends, it was indeed a great time in Atlanta’s history. We were center stage for the world. We were fearless, brave, visionary, unified and committed to an idea “rooted in goodness.” We were demonstrating to the world the greatness of our Southern hospitality. We put aside those things that divided us and focused -- if just for a moment -- on those things that made us one. Together. We even overcame a terrorist bomber and reopened the park. I wept.

A.D. Frazier, former chief operating officer of the Atlanta Olympics.
Caption
A.D. Frazier, former chief operating officer of the Atlanta Olympics.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

We were filled with love, good spirits and pride. We gathered as families in the evenings and shared the day’s thrills and tomorrow’s anticipated adventures. We rode MARTA!

There was a sense of “giving” in the air. We volunteered. Boy did we volunteer. That was our foremost gift to the Olympic Games. (That volunteer spirit is, of course, a gift we could still give our brothers and sisters today!)

Was it worth it? Did the Olympics really matter to the long-term trajectory of “Atlanta’s” history. Did our good feelings last? Have they influenced the behaviors that characterize us today? Are we as a community still “an idea rooted in goodness”?

I hope opinions will differ. But I, for one, am saddened in 2021. These are my views, as requested, at age 77, after 51 years of observation.

Unity of vision has escaped us. This is manifest in the city government, the state Legislature and the community at large. We are simply divided. And each side seems to feel more and more strongly about the rectitude of our own position.

( Why in the world are we to the point of entertaining a city of Buckhead?)

Concepts like “trust”, “compromise” and “outreach” seem alien to our lexicon. It seems like “the city too busy to hate” -- a proud boast during the Civil Rights movement, has simply become “the city too busy…”.

Our tribalism will kill all that is good in our community if we let it go unchallenged.

Race hatred has always been our nemesis. We can now add poverty, crime and laziness to become our “four horsemen of the apocalypse.“

The ability to divine “truth” seems to escape us, or at least we cannot agree on what “truth” is. This, sadly, is the case even in the classrooms, among journalists and from our pulpits. I know our children must wonder what the hell is going on.

Hope? Of course there’s hope.

We were at the cusp of greatness 25 years ago and we can be there again.

New leadership will emerge with their own “ideas rooted in goodness.” We will tire of the fighting and bickering and will find our way back to the notions of “trust”, “compromise” and “outreach” that guided us for so many years. We will do so by seeking guidance from the Almighty and by “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” We will find more joy in giving than in greed, perhaps even joy in “volunteering.”

As “One Community,” we were great. And we can become great again.

We must.

A.D. Frazier was chief operating officer of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

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