Well, I don’t know about that.
Sure, it was over-commercialized — Coca-Cola, a sponsor, was the only soft drink sold at its venues. But this was Atlanta. What would you expect? Dr Pepper?
Sure, some of the images the organizing committee chose to stamp indelibility on our minds were, shall we say (as some did), “garish” — chrome pickup trucks? — but this was Georgia, which, as my buddy Jim has observed, Atlanta is “pretty good for.”
And that mascot, “Izzy,” which someone called “the sperm in sneakers,” was as close to nothing as a mascot could be, but it was created by a local designer, not made in China, and that has to count for something.
Meanwhile, The New York Times, ever the source of all available knowledge about the South, advised Atlanta Olympic visitors that if they went out searching for a Southern food experience, “fried” was the best criteria for determining if the delight was truly Dixie’s.
But there were high points.
My daughter sang with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus at the opening ceremony, which also had Muhammad Ali as the final torchbearer. Despite the trucks, it was pretty impressive.
Stopping at the Georgia Welcome Center back then, I picked up a bumper sticker that read, simply, “No grits, no glory.” I still can’t figure out what it means, but it is on my truck more than a decade later.
Now it appears London is primed and ready to make folks forget about the Olympics in the City Too Busy Too Hate.
Atlanta’s commercialization is small potatoes when compared to the way the British government has legislated against the use of Olympic symbols and even Olympic-related words to prevent unauthorized use by unauthorized people. A butcher in Dorset had to take down a display of sausages because it resembled the Olympic Rings. Not even Atlanta would go that far.
So all-encompassing are Britain’s rules and restrictions that some have taken to calling the London games the “Censorship Olympics.” Threats to bring criminal charges against those who may infringe on a protected “brand” were more than one commentator could stand. “Not even the Cuban Communist Party,” he wrote, “claims the right to regulate the image of Che Guevara.”
Happily, the censorship in Britain does not apply to our beloved U.S. of A., where Tony Olivero of The Wall Street Journal published an online piece on how the Olympics might have been conducted if the English comedy troupe Monty Python had been selected to organize the games. (http://on.wsj.com/O9n6Pd)
The inclusion of such events as the 100-yard dash for people with no sense of direction and the 3,000-meter steeplechase for people who think they are chickens would have set the British censors on their collective ears and no doubt brought criminal charges from the island’s poultry industry, which likely has a monopoly on the supplying of fowls to feed the athletes.
And these athletes certainly need feeding for, according to The Daily Mail, the competitors are doing more than dashing about. They are “doing the deed” — frequently.
Yessir. Despite the English reputation for discretion and propriety (remember the 1970s play “No Sex Please, We’re British”), The Mail announced that the host country made 15 condoms available to each athlete for the 17 days of the games, which leads one to wonder if they are expected to take Sunday off.
The 150,000 brightly colored bloonies the British have provided far exceeds the 100,000 made available in Beijing, where reports of athletes “getting down and dirty between buildings” may have inspired Britannia to increase the allocation.
(The rumor that China’s embarrassing shortfall was due to inept centralized state planning and that the “People’s Condom Commissar” was subsequently sent to a reeducation camp could not be confirmed, because I made it up.)
Meanwhile, London is experiencing problems that even Atlanta avoided — a massive mobile phone outage, a Brazilian team that could not find the stadium, Muslim competitors who threaten to withdraw because their accommodations do not have a window facing east so they can pray, unobstructed, to Mecca, and less-than-palatable food. (What is wrong with steak and kidney pie or bangers and mash?)
On the other hand, to ease security concerns, Britain has deployed more troops to protect athletes and spectators than they have sent to Afghanistan.
And now there is sex, which, as I recall, was not much of an issue back in Atlanta.
But Atlanta is in the South and you know that Southern mamas teach Southern children not to talk about such things even if they happened, which they probably did.
So let’s get on with the games.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: email@example.com.