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Some inspired Atlantans have propelled their city to the verge of landing the 1996 Olympic Games

Here is how it started. It was Sunday, Feb. 8, 1987, and William Porter (Billy) Payne, a former University of Georgia football player who was now a $250,000-a-year Atlanta real estate lawyer, had just finished a couple of years as volunteer chairman of a campaign to raise money for a new sanctuary for St. Luke's Presbyterian Church in Dunwoody, one of Atlanta's wealthier suburbs. This seemed an ordinary enough contribution by an ordinary enough community-minded suburbanite. And, ordinarily, his organizing efforts would have been over on that Sunday. But, during the dedication ceremonies in the sanctuary, Billy Payne was seized by an extraordinary sensation that changed his life.

This being Georgia, where supernatural visitations and field-of-dream-like revelations are, in some places, considered as common as clay, Payne has worked hard ever since to clarify the exact quality of his experience. "Yes, it did happen in church, but it was definitely not a religious vision," he says. "I just got an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction over the fact that so many people had worked together so hard and so long and had been able to accomplish something so worthwhile. Later, at home, I told my wife, Martha, 'You know, we have cheated life today, we have really stolen something extra by being a part of all this. We have stretched ourselves. Let's find something else and do this one more time.' "

The next day Payne went to his law office long before daybreak, as is his habit. He shut the door. "I sat there thinking. Hmmmmmm. Hmmmmmm. I was trying to come up with an idea that might repeat that great feeling of accomplishment. Hmmmmmm."

When he at last emerged from his office, the sun had risen over Atlanta, and so had a bizarre idea that just might change the city, the state and the whole American South for a very long time to come. Billy Payne had decided that he would bring the Olympic Games to Atlanta.


The 100th anniversary of the modern Olympics will occur in 1996. Six cities around the world are competing to be the host of the Games that year: Athens, Greece; Atlanta; Belgrade, Yugoslavia; Manchester, England; Melbourne; and Toronto. The winner will be selected in Tokyo on Sept. 17 at a formal assembly of members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Atlanta has become one of the favorites.

The IOC is an unmade bed of a body consisting of 88 members and their egos, ids, emotional tics, quirks, personal politics and eccentricities, each of which must be identified if one is to beg, steal, borrow, coax or perhaps even surgically remove the vote of a member (in its unsuccessful bid to win the 1992 Summer Olympics, the Paris organizing committee arranged to give one IOC member an operation and several weeks of hospital care in the City of Light). IOC members are mostly rich and cosmopolitan. They come from 70 countries and range from the tense young (he's 32) Prince Albert of Monaco, an Amherst graduate who likes fast bobsleds and fast cars, to the ancient (86) Jean Bonnin de la Bonninière, Comte de-Beaumont, of France, who first became a member of the IOC in 1951, and from Shagdarjav Magvan, 63, former amateur wrestler, who was once general secretary of the Central Soviet of Trade Unionists of Mongolia and now runs a porcelain factory, to Princess Nora of Liechtenstein, 39, who lists her civil status as "spinster" and her only non-Olympic activity as "president of the Liechtenstein Girl Guides." Digging for votes—one by one by one—in this polyglot swamp of odd ducks is what an Olympic bid is all about.

Neophyte though he was, Payne understood this from the start. He knew the importance of personal missionary work. "If you can capture the trust of a majority of the members of the committee, whoever does that best is the winner," he wrote before the Atlanta Organizing Committee (AOC) was formed. "They want to guard the integrity and sanctity of the Games above all else. Everything we do and say is to establish the kind of trust that guarantees we will do that for them."

The Atlanta city fathers and Chamber of Commerce tepidly wished him luck but offered no material help. The local TV stations virtually ignored him, and The Atlanta Journal and Constitution portrayed him as a screwball with a harebrained scheme. Payne's first recruits, in the spring of '87, were mainly affluent friends, people who were accustomed to doing volunteer work for charities and cultural institutions. However, Payne, 42, is still sensitive about the idea that the Olympic bid is a function of noblesse oblige. "This is not a high-society operation," he says. "This includes the broadest cross section of the community."

Now, yes. At first, no. The cross section then was pretty narrow and pretty rich. Payne says, "We did begin with people who had money because they had to put up resources we needed to start."

Each of the original nine volunteers gave at least $50,000. Payne took a full-time leave from his firm of Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers, and he has been paid nothing by the AOC.

Two of Payne's earliest and most loyal unpaid recruits were Ginger Watkins, mother of three, and Linda Stephenson, mother of two. The previous Christmas they had co-chaired one of Atlanta's major annual fetes, the Festival of the Trees, a 10-day charity event. Another of the originals was Cindy Fowler, mother of two and also a consummate community volunteer. For a time the Atlanta Olympic movement was labeled by insiders as Billy and the Girl Scouts.

But there were also plenty of Boy Scouts. There was Horace Sibley, a lawyer from a revered and deeply rooted Atlanta family (his father helped devise the 1960 master plan that led to peaceful school integration throughout Georgia at a time when much of the South was in a pitched battle over the issue). There was Peter Candler, a senior VP of an insurance brokerage firm, whose family was a major force in Coca-Cola in Atlanta in its early years. There were Charlie Shaffer and Charlie Battle, both lawyers, and Tim Christian, a former Auburn assistant football coach who had recently left a high profile job in an Atlanta concrete business. And there was John Patrick Crecine, a computer wizard who had just begun his term as president of Georgia Tech. Crecine not only volunteered his considerable prestige and electronics expertise but also offered the 330-acre Tech campus, in the heart of Atlanta, to serve as the Olympic Village.

Perhaps more important even than signing on these passioniately committed volunteers, however, was Payne's recruitment of Rev. Andrew Jackson Young, who in 1987 was in his second term as mayor of Atlanta. Young had long been a local hero—first for his association with Martin Luther King Jr. and the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the civil-rights crusades of the '60s, then as ambassador to the United Nations in the Georgia-bred administration of Jimmy Carter in the late '70s, and finally as mayor of Atlanta. Young was much less optimistic about Payne's Olympic dream than Billy and his Scouts were. "When Billy mentioned Olympics, my first thought was the $3 billion debt Montreal had wound up with," recalled Young. "I told him an Olympics would be O.K., but only if it could be done on schedule, on budget and without any serious expenditures of city money. If they had needed city resources to get started, it couldn't have happened."

But if Young couldn't offer money, he could offer himself—and he did. He was appointed chairman of the AOC—Payne is the president—and overnight became the centerpiece celebrity for the campaign. Last January, having served a maximum two terms as mayor, Young stepped down from that position, and on Aug. 7 he lost a grueling Democratic primary race for governor of Georgia. His successor in the mayor's chair, May-nard Jackson, has also been a keystone supporter of the Olympic bid—and even has found $250,000 in city money to contribute. But it was Young's early presence that gave the AOC credibility beyond Georgia.

Conspicuously absent from the counsels of the AOC are Georgia's two most illustrious citizens, Carter and Ted Turner. Both men are potential liabilities for the Atlanta organizers in their attempts to gather IOC support. Carter incurred the everlasting wrath of the Olympic movement in the final year of his presidency when he led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games in retaliation for the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Turner has staged two Goodwill Games, which the IOC initially considered something of a pest but has since ignored. Young, who says that he opposed the idea of the Carter boycott when it was proposed shortly after Young left the administration, adds that IOC members "aren't making the tie between Carter and Atlanta."

Says the admiring Payne, "In the beginning, Andy was the most crucial member of the group. I've been to 15 foreign cities with him and not once has he gone unrecognized on the street. He also allowed us to get immediate audiences with people we might never have been able to develop relationships with."

However, long before the Atlantans hit the road to foreign cities, they had to clinch the vote of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) as the American candidate for the '96 Games. Nashville, San Francisco and Minneapolis-St. Paul had all launched serious campaigns. Immediately, the personal touch became the hallmark of the Atlanta operation. In September 1987, other candidates chose to mail their formal bids to the USOCs headquarters in Colorado. Payne, Sibley and Watkins flew out to present the Atlanta bid in person. "The secretaries just stared at us," Sibley recalled. "They couldn't figure out why these crazy people had come all the way from Georgia to drop off a book on a desk."

The AOC then divvied up the names of the 114 members of the USOCs executive board and contacted each of them in person or by phone. In November, USOC president Robert Helmick unexpectedly announced that the executive board would hold its scheduled January '88 meeting in Atlanta. "What an opportunity!" says Payne. "We jumped in and transformed our bid team into a living, breathing organism of pure Southern hospitality. We organized the whole thing for them."

Four months later, on April 29, the USOC met in Washington, D.C., to pick its bid city. The other semifinalist left in the running, Minneapolis-St. Paul, rented hotel suites or banquet rooms to woo the delegates. Not the AOC. It entertained at an elegant four-story town house in Georgetown, where guests were greeted in the foyer by tuxedo-clad butlers offering champagne and by a group of 10 strolling violinists playing the official state song, Georgia on My Mind. Atlanta won in a landslide. Young wept when the result was announced, and Payne said proudly, "Detail is what matters in this effort, and we are very, very good at that."


Payne's maniacal commitment to the Olympics is something quite new for him. He had watched the Games on television, beginning with the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but he had never been near a functioning Olympic venue before he began trying to win the '96 Games for Atlanta. However, his love of non-Olympic sports started very early—in the womb. His father, Porter Payne, was a star lineman with the University of Georgia and a member of the upstart College All-Star team that beat the Philadelphia Eagles in 1950. Billy was born in Athens, Ga., on Oct. 13, 1947, while his father was still in school. The family moved to Atlanta, where Porter prospered in real estate. Billy excelled as an all-around high school athlete and was a good enough quarterback to be courted by the likes of Texas, USC, Notre Dame, Auburn and Florida. He chose Georgia, where Vince Dooley, then 34, was in his third year of big-time coaching. Dooley turned Billy into an end on a Bulldog team that went 10-1 in 1966, 7-4 in 1967, 8-1-2 in 1968, and played in the Cotton Bowl, the Liberty Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, respectively, in those years. Payne was an AP All-America. After graduation, he got a degree from the University of Georgia School of Law and went back to Atlanta to practice.

He married his college sweetheart, Martha Beard; had two children; and established a lovely existence, which included serving St. Luke's church as treasurer, chairman of the board of deacons and ruling elder. His world has not been without clouds, however. In 1987, his sister, Patti, died of cancer, at age 40. In '82, his father died of a heart attack, at 53. Five weeks later, Billy had triple bypass surgery (it was discovered during the operation that he had had a heart attack himself in 1974, at 26). Porter Payne had been his son's idol. "My father went to every game I ever played, but he never saw a single play because he covered his eyes every time," says Billy. "But his was the only assessment of me I ever cared about. His question always was, 'Do you think you did your best, Billy? Your very best?' Never once could I honestly say I had really done my best. I always felt that I quit too soon."

His life-style is pure type A: He rarely arrives at the AOC offices later than 4:30 a.m. He then often makes phone calls to Europe, Africa and Asia. He works a full day and often some of the night, attending official dinners, making speeches and doing homework. He describes himself as "driven" and likens his job to "a 24-hour-a-day struggle." And when he talks about the nature of his quest, he sounds like a cross between Dale Carnegie and Billy Sunday. "We are a triumph of the human spirit here," he says. "This dream is founded in goodness. The generosity of the people involved is overwhelming. We are finding in this effort the truth of the old adage: It is impossible to give something away, because it always comes back manyfold. This is what Olympism is—something that comes back many times, intangibly and tangibly. We cannot lose; we can only win in this effort."


Once Atlanta became the USOC's chosen city for '96, Payne & Co. entered the big leagues. This time, a lot of money was forthcoming—mainly from business. Payne figured it would cost about $5.4 million just to campaign for the IOC bid. It eventually cost $7 million.

The AOC now has six paid employees (all but one of them clerical) and 1,000 volunteers. Nevertheless, Payne, Young and their minions have had to defend themselves against a worldwide American reputation for greed. Among Olympic idealists, nothing enriched this reputation more than the orgy of commercialism that occurred during the Los Angeles Games of 1984.

The $225 million-plus profit that the Los Angeles organization reaped—and then kept mostly for itself—put Atlanta on the defensive from the start. "We've had to spend a great deal of time convincing people that we are not going to be like L.A.," says Payne.

The AOC's main strategy has been simply to promise to give away whatever profit (conservatively estimated at $150 to $200 million and carefully referred to by Payne as "surplus") an Atlanta Olympics might produce. "We are required by contract to give 10 percent to the IOC and 10 percent to the USOC. The remaining 80 percent goes to the host city," says Payne. "We will keep some of the surplus in Atlanta to maintain a perpetual fund for sports facilities and youth programs. However, the vast proportion of the AOC's part of the surplus—80 percent of the 80 percent we get—will be given to the international sports community, to the national Olympic committees and to the sports federations. We want people to understand that we are servants to the Olympic movement and that our resources are the Olympics' resources. We have to convince everyone that we simply are not in this for the dollars."

The L.A. Games have plagued Atlanta in another way: Their chronological proximity has caused understandable reluctance on the part of some IOC members to hold another Olympics in the U.S. so soon. Payne says, "Geography is constantly thrown in our face, but we argue that the U.S. is not a homogenized country, that its regions are very different. We say that the U.S. is an entire continent and that we have had only three Summer Olympics-in 1904, 1932 and 1984-and Europe has had fourteen. We also argue that L.A. was the only city in the world to bid for the '84 Olympics, so the IOC hasn't actually selected an American city for the Summer Games for almost 60 years."

Atlanta is the putative capital of the American civil-rights movement. If IOC members are altruistic enough to think in these terms (and certainly some are), then the chairman of the AOC is their source for inspiration. Young, now 58, came through those fearsome early days of rebellion and death—as well as the following years, when he was a black icon and world politician—with tremendous grace and the appearance of a man 20 years his junior. And his Olympic awareness is not a recent addition to his life. "The earliest political event I can vaguely recall was the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, when Jesse Owens took on Hitler," he says. "Later, Ralph Metcalfe, who won medals there, too, in the relays, came to coach at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where I was born and raised, so in my earliest childhood I was thinking about the Olympics."

A good all-around athlete, Young himself might have been an Olympian. In 1951, when he was 19 and a student at Howard University, he ran the 220-yard dash in 21.4 seconds—good at the time. He trained briefly one summer with world-class athletes at the Pioneer track club in New York City while he was attending the Hartford Theological Seminary. Then he got quite another kind of call: He was asked to pastor a church in rural Alabama. "I had to choose between my sports and my church, so I went to Alabama. I still trained, running through pine forests down there—those woods are great for running—but I couldn't be realistically serious about the Olympics."

Young is serious now. "Atlanta offers a more credible and more hopeful message than just American capitalism and material success," he says. "This is the home of the human-rights movement, the place where the world first heard of We Shall Overcome. Do you know that hymn is sung everywhere in the world? I have heard it in India, in Poland. We Shall Overcome. Our own version of apartheid existed in the South until 1965, but we overcame. When people sec that this can happen in Atlanta, they know it can also happen in Zimbabwe."

In his 1977-79 incarnation as ambassador to the UN, Young made hundreds of contacts that have been invaluable in his foreign forays for the AOC (he has visited thirty countries since the campaign began). "I'd already been most places before, and it was a great help that I had some previous sense of the culture and politics in a place like, say, Mauritius. It was also a great help that at the time I made my earlier visits, the U.S. government was still well respected for its position on human rights."

In his years as mayor of Atlanta, Young presided over a city that was in grand transformation. It had been burned to the ground in 1864 during General William Tecumseh Sherman's scorched-earth march across Georgia to the sea, and when it was rebuilt it became a sleepy, slow-footed city whose only major center of activity was the train depot, which anchored the entire Southeast. After the 1960s upheaval of the civil-rights movement had settled down, the prosperity of the '70s and '80s took hold in Atlanta and a vigorous local boosterism grew out of it. In 1977 there had even been a move to mount an Olympic bid for the '84 Games. Sibley was involved then and recalls, "A committee studied the situation and reported that the city could hold a very modestly run Games, but there was no enthusiasm. In those days, there was no major airport, no real supply of hotel rooms, no domed stadium, none of the great convention facilities we have now."

Since then, the city has blossomed into one of the U.S.'s most vigorous business and convention centers. As Young puts it, "It's as if Atlanta had been getting itself ready to do an Olympics every day for the last 10 years. Why, there is the Hartsfield International Airport, 60,000 hotel rooms, The Omni [the city's major indoor arena], the Georgia World Congress Center [a mammoth convention and exhibition facility which would become the venue for six indoor sports]. The domed stadium is in the works, Stone Mountain State Park [a potential venue for seven outdoor sports] is fifteen miles away—why, there is almost nothing left to do to make this place perfect for the Olympic Games."

And that is the truth. Atlanta probably has the best existing facilities—easily accessible, closely located and professionally operated—of any wannabe Olympic city in decades.

One of Payne's early axioms for launching an Olympic bid was this: "The city that has the most IOC members visit it will probably have the best chance to win." As of last week, 68 members of the IOC had visited Atlanta, and a total of 75 are expected before the big vote next month. Besides that, emissaries from the AOC have visited the homes or homelands of no fewer than 85 delegates in a total of 70 countries.

The care and feeding of IOC members is an exceedingly delicate undertaking. As Payne says, "It boils down to which organizing committee is the greater judge of people. I was prepared for the worst, but we have been overwhelmingly impressed with the IOC members. They are educated, sophisticated people. They have come to be friends. We have tried to use the same 10 or a dozen Atlanta people for all of our contacts. It gets to be like old home week on the road."

Early on, Payne decided that most IOC members are impressed by cultural accomplishments, so he sent each of them a portable compact-disc player and recordings by the Atlanta Symphony, which is a first-class orchestra. Other gifts have included big, glossy picture books about subjects ranging from the Civil War and the Old South city of Savannah (where the yachting events will be held) to dogwood trees and the flowers that thrive in Georgia. Particularly prized gifts given to many of the visiting delegates are photographs taken by Young, who has gotten to be a pretty fair country photographer. Some have been blown up to poster size.

Occasionally, there is the individualized gift. A delegate from Cuba, Gonzalez Guerra, visited Payne's office in September of 1989 and spotted a drawing and two ceramic models of Uga, the University of Georgia's bulldog mascot. Guerra said sadly that he loved such dogs but that no one in Cuba bred bulldogs. "He couldn't have touched my heart more," recalls Payne. When Guerra left Atlanta, there was an Uga look-alike with him on the plane bound for Cuba.

So how has this mix of Southern hospitality and sleek efficiency, of picture books and bulldogs, worked out? Billy Payne is very pleased: "Right now, in the minds of the majority of the voters, I would say that we are going to the final presentation in Tokyo as one of the top two cities."


Is that true? Here is a synopsis of how the other bidding cities stand:


"The Golden Olympics must be held in Athens," says Dimitris Diathesopoulos, general secretary of the Athens Bid Committee. As Athens organizers told the IOC evaluation commission recently, "If your mother is having her 100th birthday, you don't accept any other invitations that day."

Though there might be great nostalgic yearning to return to the city where the modern Olympics started in 1896, even the softest of sentimentalists cannot ignore the fact that in the last 100 years Athens has developed some of the foulest air on earth (700 people wound up in hospitals due to pollution one recent spring weekend), to say nothing of routinely snarled traffic, an antiquated airport, a traditionally unstable government and a telecommunications system so bad that members of a recently visiting IOC facilities evaluation group were unable to make a call across town. Furthermore, the Greeks have a penchant for general strikes, which are usually staged at times when conditions are most chaotic. And then there is the backdrop of Middle East terrorism, which Athens organizers say they will counter by deploying 60,000 security people at the Games—which is four times the number of athletes.

Another of Athens's flaws, in the eyes of some IOC observers, is the organizing committee's obtrusive style of politicking at the IOC meetings. The Athenians tend to travel in great numbers (53 Greeks showed up at one affair), and they bicker among themselves in hotel lobbies and hallways. Partly because they send so many people on the road, Athens's expenditures for this bid are estimated to be the largest of any city's—about $25 million.

A deep sense of resignation prevails over this bid. Most Yugoslavs seem to believe that the neighboring Greeks have the inside track with their 100-year-old mother's birthday party.


Bob Scott, 46, is a bearlike charmer of a man, a theater impresario who runs two houses in Manchester and has come to serve as the chairman of the Manchester Olympic Bid Commission in the same way he does everything else in his life—with exuberant enthusiasm and high-spirited theories about what's really going on. "I find this bid is like a 1930s film," he says. "I'm an outsider approaching a lit mansion. Inside there's a party. It's a Busby Berkeley musical filled with exotic people dancing—the members of the IOC. I walk in wearing a trench coat, like Humphrey Bogart. And I have two years to get to know each one of those people."

Scott was in Seoul for the 1988 Olympics, when the lowliest underdog, Lillehammer, Norway, won the right to be host city to the 1994 Winter Olympics. Scott says, "I, like everyone else, was thunderstruck. The first thing I did when I got back to Manchester was to call the people from Lillehammer and make an appointment to talk to them. I spent two days there. I'm the only city that did that. That's amazing to me. They confirmed some things for me: Timing is critical. And if you peak too soon or too late—if IOC members visit so early they forget you or so late they have already made up their minds—you're dead."

Scott does not believe outright bribery of IOC members is—or ever has been—a serious factor in getting votes. "It's a world where people are tremendously polite to each other. It's a present-giving world. I've collected cabinets of the stuff. The idea that the system is corrupt is absurd. The killer of the bribery scenario is that it's a secret vote. Why should a gift make any difference?"

Scott is careful to build IOC members' visits around England's great sporting events—Wimbledon, the FA Cup, the British Open and the Henley Regatta, the last of which IOC members adore, because the Olympic Code is based on the rules of Henley. But Manchester's shortcomings are almost too overwhelming even for a man of Scott's optimism and vitality. Among other things, there is a great shortage of hotel rooms, British hooliganism frightens everyone, and Manchester has 17 of 34 venues still to build. Ever candid, Scott says, "We're uncharismatic. That's why it's very important for us to get members to come. Our real strategy is to be everybody's second favorite." Manchester has spent $9 million toward that end.


Paul Henderson, an aggressive, stocky, shaved-headed engineer who likes to call himself "a simple plumber," has run the Toronto bid with a monkey-wrench grip since 1986; he's a one-man gang who comes on with a raw pragmatism that some of the gentler IOC souls find abrasive. He says flatly, "The IOC has to come to this part of the world because of the money available for television rights. It cannot afford to stay away from this market. The 1992 Games are in Barcelona, the 2000 Games could be in Beijing or a unified Berlin. To miss this time zone in 1996 means going from 1984 in L.A. to at least 2004 without having the Olympics in North American prime time."

Henderson, like Payne, believes that heavy IOC visitation is the key to success. He pitches the cosmopolitan quality of his city ("I'm sure we have the only restaurant in North America that specializes in the cuisine of Somalia"); escorts visitors to the SkyDome, where their names appear on the world's largest scoreboard; and takes them out sailing in his boat (he is a former Olympic yachtsman) on Lake Ontario or on blimp rides over the city. Toronto's bid budget is $12 million.

Henderson's most serious problem is public dissent over the hosting of the Olympics. Many of Toronto's civic groups have banded together under the banner BREAD NOT CIRCUSES to protest the idea of having a billion-dollar Olympic party while 80,000 people in Toronto line up each month for food handouts. Polls show the Olympics have about 70% support from the public, but an aura of protest—however limited it may be—generally is anathema to the IOC.


The slogan here is Time for Another Continent. The only instance of the Games being held in the southern hemisphere was the Melbourne Olympics of 1956, and the general feeling Down Under is that Melbourne should have the inside track for '96 unless the IOC gets caught up in a great wave of emotion for Athens. John Landy, the former world-record holder in the mile and the chief of technical affairs for the Melbourne Olympic Candidature, says, "Some of [the IOC members] probably made up their minds 20 years ago to vote for Athens. But we have some tradition going, too. It was in Melbourne that the Olympic closing ceremony was invented."

Well, there is tradition and there is tradition. Max Roger, the Melbourne candidature's CEO, faces a far more skeptical press than does Payne. The Sunday Age rates Melbourne as an 8-1 shot, with Toronto and Athens at 3-1 and Atlanta the favorite at 2-1.


When the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, from April 6 to April 15, 1896, 285 participants from 13 countries competed. In the lobby of the Hotel Princesa Sofia in Barcelona early in June, about that many participants from the six bidding cities were milling about trying to buttonhole IOC voters. The occasion was a meeting of national Olympic committees. There were only about 50 members of the IOC on hand.

"I feel like I'm part of a piranha pack," said Young. Then, asked to compare the IOC with other political bodies he has known, he said, "It is like the UN to some extent, because there are 73 nations represented. But then it isn't like the UN. In the UN, you could always use the national politics of a delegate to give you some clue about his vote. In the IOC, national politics mean almost nothing. Also, there isn't any real bloc voting you can depend on, either.

"The Soviet bloc is gone. People are rooted in their cultures, of course, and in that sense they vote as representatives of nations. In the UN, you could predict votes and sometimes be right. Here? I have no idea at all."

He paused, thought, then chuckled to himself and said, "This is more akin to electing a pope than anything. You just have to go after cardinal by cardinal, one by one, until you get a majority. And there is no knowing, until the white puff of smoke shows up."

And so it went for four days in Barcelona. Cardinal by cardinal. One by one. Every handshake, every wink, every whisper could be read as a plus or a minus in the voting to come. Only late on the afternoon of the last day did a rumor of real substance sweep the lobby of the Princesa Sofia: The IOC evaluation commission had completed rigorous investigative visits to all six cities and had delivered its report to IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch. And for the first time ever, the rumor went, the commission had rated the bids in order of their competence. Samaranch, it was said, had been furious at this breach of neutrality by an official IOC group and, according to the rumor, had ordered all copies of the report to be shredded.

But he had kept one copy for himself, and....

A few weeks later word spread that the commission has lumped together Athens, Belgrade and Manchester as much less qualified than the other three cities. And of the top three, the order of the commission's preference was 3) Toronto, 2) Melbourne and 1) Atlanta.




Payne (center) has moved a bit of heaven and a lot of earth to make his vision a reality.





Payne (front, arm around Young) and his Dixieland band can smile now, but in '87 the Atlanta press was skeptical about their Olympic aspirations.



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Local liabilities: Turner (top) annoyed the IOC with his Goodwill Games; Carter took Olympic heat for the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Games.



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The Atlanta bid leaders are worldly-wise: Young made friends at a refugee camp in Morocco in '80; Payne plowed for votes in India last spring.



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At Stone Mountain, an IOC delegate from New Zealand (left) got the pitch from an AOC member.



Toronto's Henderson, Manchester's Scott and Melbourne's Roger (top to bottom) all hope to receive the A-O.K. when the IOC gathers in Tokyo.



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Athens, site of the first modern-day Olympics in 1896, wants to throw a 100th birthday party.