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In May managing editor Bill Colson had the idea that we should
know more about the athletes who will represent the U.S. in
Atlanta. Who are these Olympians? Where are they from? What do
they like to eat, to read, to see at the theater? The one way to
find out was to interview all 649 for our preview issue. Given
that time was short and the athletes far-flung (and in many
cases high-strung), Colson realized that completing the project
was probably impossible. "So let's do it," he said.

We did. Beginning on page 50, you can see the results, the
product of work by 23 interviewers, two finger-tapping
librarians, several photographers, copy editors and frantic fact
checkers, one writer and a few editors, including assistant
managing editor Jerry Kirshenbaum and senior editor Sandy
Bailey, who have been overseeing the issue for more than a year.
Then there was our graphic artist genius, Nigel Holmes, 54, who
served as Time's graphics director for 16 years, until 1994,
when he went out on his own; he now lectures on his specialty
all over the world. "The challenge was the deadline pressure,
but it's been fun," said Holmes. "Others did the dirty work."
That would include Katharine Van Itallie and Karen Meneghin, who
designed the issue.

But perhaps the dirtiest job was handled by our intrepid
interviewers, dispatched by chief of reporters Jane Wulf, who
kept track of where each athlete might be found. Questionnaires
in hand, they stalked their prey, asking about politics,
smoking, superstitions, tattoos and body piercings. Only 40
athletes escaped us, a number far smaller than we ever thought
possible at the beginning. Writer-reporter Brian Cazeneuve was
the busiest pollster, having queried the one modern pentathlete
plus some 200 archers, fencers, judoists, rowers, sprinters,
wrestlers and volleyball players, the latter group during a
four-hour team bus ride from Madison, Wis., to Bloomington, Ill.
Everyone pitched in. Director of photography Heinz Kluetmeier
surveyed sprinter Michael Johnson after a photo shoot for the
story beginning on page 72.

Central to the project were chief librarian Linda Ronan and
research librarian Joy Birdsong. They typed each three-page
questionnaire into a computer and created a database that helped
sort facts to the specifications of Holmes and senior writer
Jack McCallum, who both had the daunting task of bringing life
to the original 1,947 pages of information. We figured the Games
themselves wouldn't seem so wonderful for Ronan and Birdsong,
considering the hours they've spent at the keyboard. We were
wrong. "Joy and I can't wait to start watching," says Ronan.
"We'll be the ones thinking, Hey, I know exactly where her
tattoos are."

COLOR CHART [Chart not available--chart depicting number of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED staffers and pages of statistics used to prepare Olympic Preview Issue]