Olympic mem­o­ries

A look back at Cov­ing­ton's role in the 1996 Olympic Games.

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - XAVIER MCKNIGHT news@cov­news.com Ed­i­tor's note: The Cov­ing­ton News will pub­lish a spe­cial Olympic com­mem­o­ra­tive spread in the Au­gust 7 edi­tion of the news­pa­per, co­in­cid­ing with the open­ing day of the 2016 Sum­mer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on Au­gust 5. Pl

The 2016 Sum­mer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil are a few weeks away from tak­ing place. How­ever, this sum­mer also marks the 20 year an­niver­sary of the 1996 Sum­mer Olympics in At­lanta.

Al­though At­lanta was the host city for the Olympic Games and events dur­ing 1996, many other Ge­or­gia com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing New­ton County, housed ath­letes and coaches from other coun­tries.

The Ge­or­gia FFA/FCCLA Cen­ter, lo­cated in New­ton County off High­way 36, was a huge hous­ing fa­cil­ity avail­able for many of the ath­letes and coaches from other na­tions, es­pe­cially from Ger­many.

“I started at the camp July 1, 1996,” said Todd Teasley, Di­rec­tor of the FFA/FCCLA Cen­ter. “That was a week be­fore 1,800 Ger­mans were ex­pected to come watch the Olympics, but we ac­tu­ally had 3,600 kids and they had 5,000 Olympic tick­ets.”

Teasley also told a story that in­volved a group of the Ger­mans who were stay­ing at the Cen­ter and went shop­ping in one of the lo­cal depart­ment stores.

“I re­mem­ber they bought out Goody’s (Depart­ment Store) in jeans,” Teasley said. “But I guess they didn’t be­lieve in dress­ing rooms be­cause they just changed their clothes right in the front of the store.”

Teasley de­scribed this ex­pe­ri­ence as one of the many cul­tural dif­fer­ences that he saw with the Ger­mans. He said that he and many oth­ers at the Cen­ter had to help the Ger­mans un­der­stand the rules and laws of the United States, in­clud­ing many of the youth, un­der the age of 21, want­ing to con­sume al­co­holic bev­er­ages.

“I guess they were used to drink­ing beer over there [in Ger­many], but, here in Amer­ica, we have laws that you have to be of a cer­tain age to drink and many of them were not of age yet,” Teasley said.

How­ever, Teasley said that this time pe­riod was “a good time” and the Ger­mans that stayed at the FFA/FCCLA Cen­ter were “a lot of good peo­ple.”

“We had kids sleep­ing on the ball fields and on the floors,” he said. “It was a good game changer for the camp.”

Dr. Hoyt Oliver, who was on fac­ulty at Ox­ford Col­lege of Emory Univer­sity at the time, noted that Ox­ford Col­lege was also a fa­cil­ity that many other ath­letes, coaches and train­ers from other na­tions would uti­lize for prac­tice as well as meals.

“We even had a cou­ple of Ger­man horse train­ers stay­ing at a house in Ox­ford,” Oliver said. “The train­ers took their meals at the Ox- ford Col­lege din­ing hall.”

How­ever, ev­ery­thing about the 1996 Olympics was not joy­ous and cel­e­bra­tory. The one fright­en­ing and tragic event is the ex­plo­sion that oc­curred at the Cen­ten­nial Olympic Park.

“I at­tended the Olympics in Mu­nich (1972) and Barcelona (1992),” said Dr. Judy Greer, fac­ulty mem­ber of Ox­ford Col­lege of Emory Univer­sity. “I at­tended quite a few of the events in 1996 and [the bomb­ing] brought back mem­o­ries of the events in Mu­nich. That was sort of fright­en­ing to ev­ery­body.”

Mu­nich, Ger­many was the lo­ca­tion of the 1972 sum­mer Olympics and the Mu­nich Mas­sacre, which was a ter­ror­ist at­tack that saw eight Pales­tinian ter­ror­ists kill two mem­bers of the Is­raeli Olympic team while also tak­ing nine oth­ers hostage.

How­ever, Greer said that, de­spite the bomb­ing, the 1996 Sum­mer Olympics was a great time for At­lanta for many rea­sons.

“It was ex­cit­ing to see At­lanta on the world stage,” Greer said. “It was ex­cit­ing to go out and here and the dif­fer­ent lan­guages that were be­ing spo­ken on the streets be­cause that had never really hap­pened here be­fore. It was really a cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Cour­tesy of CDC

The 100 m hur­dles dur­ing the 1996 Olympics in At­lanta fea­tured Ni­cole Ra­malalani­rina (MAD), Lynda Goode (USA), Natalya Shekho­danova (RUS), Brigita Bukovec (SLO), Michelle Free­man (JAM), Julie Bau­mann (SUI), Kristin Patzwahl (GER), Angie Thorp (GBR)

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