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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."