*T&FT@30 – Rewind 1996

Kansas’s Wizard of Oz had a “twister” and magic ruby red shoes and in Atlanta in 1996 Michael Johnson ran like the wind in his magic golden spikes to be the star of the Olympic Games athletics programme.

The Games on the track and in the field were predictably held with US razzamataz to which the US team responded with 23 medals of which 13 were gold and the great MJ won his 3 in the 200m, 400m and 4 x 400m – his 200m WR of 19.32 was run amidst a wall of sound (Michael Johnson – Atlanta 1996 video)

Donavan Bailey set a WR in the 100m and led the Canada team to a 4x100m victory to annoy their “noisy neighbours”, Gebrselassie and Tergat fought another titanic 10,000 battle and Marie-Jose Perec 200m / 400m and Svetlana Masterkova 800m / 1500m both won double golds.

American fans broke all records for in-stadium food consumption but with 80,000 singing along to “YMCA” one evening when backed up medal ceremonies – those of Carl Lewis and the Johnson “twins” Michael & Allen – “Hot-lanta” was mostly a fun place to be: even if the heat and humidity (and chilli sauces) did present their challenges to hard working T&FT staff enforcing power naps!

At the USA Olympic Trials a month earlier – T&FT attended for a final development trip – another side of the city was revealed. Having done a private deal with a local Community Association serving the poorer residential area to use their car park within 800m of the stadium for our buses this was greeted with derision by our local agent and others we shared our enterprise with. We were lambasted for “putting ourselves in danger” by even being in that part of town especially for paying a significant cash deposit that, apparently, we would “never see again”. It seemed that by being polite and colour blind in the home of Martin Luther King we had broken local segregation rules that some chose / choose to live by. Truth was we had the best parking spot of any non-sponsor busing operation at the Athletics stadium and we got along with the locals really well – sports tour operating with imagination in such a climate can take you to “the edge” even when you are not aware of why or where any boundaries might be.

GB won 6 medals at the Games with Roger Black, Jonathan Edwards & Steve Backley and the Men’s 4 x 400m getting Silvers as Steve Smith and Denise Lewis won Bronze. Neill Allen of the Daily Mail made insightful contributions to our Atlanta daily newsletters and Steve Smith and medal and Diane Modahl attended our Supporters Party.