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Olympic effort still deserves respect

The jokes have already started. The sad part is most of the joking that I've heard is coming from the overly sarcastic media 120 miles to our west. The jokes? Next month will mark the 10th anniversary of the Summer Olympic Games that were held in Atlanta. Like then, many are taking this as an opportunity to hone their comedic skills. Good grief, I've even heard the Braves announcers trying to get in on the act.

I can't understand the point in trying to once again diss one of the greatest things to happen to Atlanta and the state of Georgia in sports, except for maybe Atlanta becoming a major league and NFL city 40 years ago. Lots of fun was made of Atlanta hosting the Olympics then, and I didn't get it, and I sure don't get it 10 years later. After all, it is now in the history books, and from my perspective a very good chapter at that.

Parodies like Jeff Foxworthy's Redneck Games didn't really bother me because he's a local guy that was really just trying to make money. That, however, was the foreigners biggest criticism of Atlanta; a bunch of country bumpkins trying to make an easy dollar. Now when I say foreigners, please know that I am including New Yorkers and Californians as well as the Greeks and Spaniards.

Like many of you, there are a slew of Olympic sports that I could care less about. There are enough summer events however to garner my interest, and I wasn't going to miss the chance to take my family to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Al Gore was still tinkering with the internet, so we had to order tickets from a catalog sponsored by Home Depot. I guess this was part of the beef.

For my humble little family we'll likely never be able to afford a trip to Paris, the Holy Land, or elsewhere across the seas. The Olympics gave Wesley and a friend the chance to socialize with a little fellow from Panama during a soccer match in Athens. That was quite an interesting encounter. This family didn't seem to think the Olympics in Georgia were the least bit funny.

We learned where the best seats in the stadium would be for baseball when it would later become Turner Field. We forced ourselves to ride MARTA and learned that it actually was a good idea. We enjoyed letting our hair down in the fountains of Centennial Olympic Park without worrying about being perceived as "country come to town." Others from all over the world were doing it too.

The 1996 Olympics touched Thomson as well. I still have a picture of Wesley with his Cub Scout den mother Cindy Wilson from when she helped carry the Olympic torch through town. People like India Ann Goodyear worked as a stadium usher. Tommy and Mike Dudley nourished the new hedges for Sanford Stadium when the old ones were displaced to widen the field for soccer.

Excuse me if I don't join in the chorus of those recalling the Atlanta Olympics with a laugh. We enjoyed our experience, and the t-shirt vendors weren't as prevalent as the critics make it sound. The roll is short of cities in the United States that have hosted an Olympiad, and we should be proud that our fair state capital is on that list. I'd rather be in that group than the city represented by the 49ers for winning Super Bowls.

Web posted on Thursday, June 29, 2006

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