In 1995, a year before the Atlanta Olympics, I got to go on a bus tour of Atlanta, sponsored by the Shelbyville office of a personnel firm that was an Olympic sponsor at the time. We saw the various venues (or construction sites) where some of the key events would be held.
As one stop on the tour, we got to watch a bit of a gymnastics meet that was taking place in a screened-off half of the Georgia Dome, sort of a dry run for the Olympic competition which would be held in the same venue the following summer. Apparently, IOC encourages doing this as often as possible – the organizing committee for the games is encouraged to host a major national or international meet at each of the existing venues a year in advance in order to work out any possible problems. Of course, newly-constructed venues may not be ready in time to do this.
Anyway, what we saw was not at all like what’s being shown on NBC right now. For one thing, there were several routines going on at once – while one competitor was doing the balance beam, another was doing the parallel bars and so on. But, mainly, there were no TV announcers to point out what was going on, and from the upper tier of seats you were really too far away to see any nuances of movement. After the novelty wore off, it was kind of boring. Then again, I am a guy.
I did get to see a couple of real Olympic events in 1996, with my old college roommate Darrell Grizzle, who lives in the Atlanta area. We didn’t get to see any finals or glamorous individual events – just a softball game, a traditional indoor volleyball match
(and maybe a third event, although I can’t recall what it was). We also got to wander through Centennial Olympic Park, where a lot of Olympic sponsors had set up pavilions or exhibits, and there was a great art exhibit at the High Museum, including Munch’s “The Scream.” Fortunately, I was there before the bombing, and I’ll always be grateful for that – I’m sure the atmosphere was quite different during the second week of those games.