Atlanta Wins ’96 Olympic Games
TOKYO (AP) _ Atlanta won the right to bring the Olympics to the American South today, winning a long race over Athens and four other rivals to host the 1996 Summer Games.
The victory in voting by the International Olympic Committee means the 100th birthday of the modern Olympics will be staged in one of the world’s most modern cities and take the Games into their second century on a high- tech, big-money road.
The decision, read from a sealed ballot by International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch, ended the hopes of Athens to stage the ’96 Games in the country where the Olympics were born in 776 B.C. and reincarnated in 1896.
Atlanta had entered the final days of the four-year contest generally rated among the front-runners. It received a boost in its formal presentation with a videotaped appeal by President Bush.
Other runnersup were Belgrade, Yugoslavia; Manchester, England; Melbourne, Australia, and Toronto.
Atlanta is world headquarters of Coca-Cola Co., one of the Olympics’ biggest sponsors. It is the home of pro football, baseball and basketball teams, prestigious universities and the civil rights movement.
It’s ″Gone with the Wind″ and Stone Mountain and catfish. It is also the headquarters of Ted Turner’s Cable News Network.
In Atlanta today, fireworks and balloons filled the morning sky when the International Olympic Committee gave the city the Games.
Thousands of people, gathered at Underground Atlanta for an Olympic party, shouted with joy when they heard the announcement over huge televisions broadcasting the committee meeting live from Tokyo.
″I am absolutely amazed. I can’t believe Atlanta has gone from a place nobody thought had a chance to really getting those games,″ said Michael Lomax, chairman of the Fulton County Commission.
″It made me feel I was making the Olympic team again,″ said Evander Holyfield, the former Olympic boxer who is from Atlanta.
Atlanta joined Los Angeles as U.S. Olympic hosts. Los Angeles staged the Games in 1932 and 1984. The ’84 Games ushered in an era of unimagined money for the International Olympic Committee. It announced last week the Olympic movement would make $1.84 billion in the four years leading up to 1992.
Atlanta caught Athens on the third of the maximum five ballots, took the lead on the fourth and won it 51-35 as it picked up most of the 22 votes Toronto had on the previous round.
Other runners-up, in order of their elimination, were Belgrade, Yugoslavia; Manchester, England; and Melbourne, Australia.
Members voted with pen and paper, with a different color ballot on each round. The low vote-getter was eliminated each round until the winner was chosen. Members knew the results of the previous round before their next ballots were cast.
Greece was the birthplace of the Olympics, and staged their rebirth a century ago. Athens had good facilities, and it certainly had history on its side. ″We have sent the torch away 25 times in 100 years. We are only asking for it once,″ Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis told the members.
But Athens bid chief Spyros Metaxa had upset some International Olympic Committee members by saying that ″morally, the Games belong to us.″ The Greeks also were accused of arrogance and flouting the rules of the bidding.
Atlanta had started the race as a longshot but turned into one of the favorites in recent months.
The International Olympic Committee’s own evaluation commission gave it high marks for stadiums, planning, organization, hotels and infrastructure, and the appeal was increased by the possibility of big money from television networks for a Games that would start in East Coast prime time.