1996 Atlanta Olympics: Envoy Driver
for Estonia National Team
When Atlanta was awarded the 1996 Olympic games, I and my
wife Sue rushed to volunteer for a once in a lifetime experience. We registered, received our official
soon to be modified uniforms, and looked forward to being a part of the
ultimate global athletic competition.
Given my educational partnership with the Mainor School of
Economics in Tallinn, Estonia, I volunteered to drive the athletes, mostly
wrestlers and cyclists, to their practices and competitions. Our envoy team was led by Mr. Aadu
Allpere and his wife Kristi Allpere. Mr. Allpere is the current Consul for
Estonia in Atlanta. May the two other nice ladies pictured please forgive me –
I’ve forgotten their names and am unable to locate the data.
The Estonian Envoys operated out of a makeshift office in a
parking garage under the below dormitory that was built to house the
athletes. After the games, the
dorms became part of Georgia State University – Georgia Tech, across the
street, was not interested in these dorms at the time but ultimately inherited
My wife Sue served as an usher for the international baseball
competition held at Atlanta – Fulton County Stadium, home of the baseball
Braves at the time. The Olympic
Stadium was transformed into Turner Field after the games and is now the
Georgia State University football stadium.
The baseball competition was virtually a three-week long
season and the level of competition was major league. Each night I walked from the Tech campus on North Avenue
over to the stadium several miles away.
While Sue ushered, I took my place in the center field seats and marveled
at the greatness of the Cuban team that defeated a terrific Japanese team led
by Ichiro and Hideki – both beat the US.
I was surprised at the level of talent, especially the Dutch,
Australian, and Nicaraguan teams.
The Georgia Tech campus served as the center of Olympics
operations: athletes were housed, fed, and entertained there. Many also trained there but athletes
trained elsewhere too – for example, wrestlers often worked out at the Grady
High School gym.
The Athletes Village on the Tech Campus was the place to be
during the day. To me, the
athlete’s extraordinary shapes and bodies were the stars of the village that
saw dignitaries and celebrities regularly appearing to add to the excitement;
tents housing cultural exhibits, information sources, artistic goods were
everywhere. TV news shows openly
broadcast interviews, updates or other breaking news to their listeners.
Centennial Park, a gift from ACOG, served as the Olympics
great public space and has come to occupy that role since the end of the
games. Downtown’s center of
gravity has shifted westward because of the park. CNN Center can be seen in the background; the Metropolitan
Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (far right with glass dome) was recently torn down
to expand the park and better showcase the NCAA College Football Hall of Fame
near the Georgia World Congress Center.
Centennial Park was the site of many concerts and other
Olympics celebrations and has matured over the years into a great central city
famous fountains that bring smiles to children’s faces are in the center of the
photo. Unfortunately, Eric
Rudolph, a far-right fanatic used the games to set off a bomb on the last
night. The death of a woman and
many injuries cast a pall over the first privately financed Olympic Games in
history that even turned a small profit.
Art pieces like this sculpture that occupies the plaza of
the 191 Peachtree building were commissioned or purchased before the Olympics
to spruce up the city.
There is no doubt that the city received a boost from the
Olympics and a rich and vital legacy.