Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Final Assessment: Locals Had a Bash

ATLANTA -- The last guests have straggled home and Atlanta's marathon coming-out bash -- that's the Olympics to y'all -- finally has wound down. Can't we just keep the lights down for a while until we work through this hangover?


Six years in the making, the Games of the XXVI Olympiad -- once they finally got here -- were everything Atlanta desired -- and feared. The world turned its gaze on this brash young city that had been furiously turning backflips, trying to get everybody's attention. And then, when folks started looking, the acrobat slipped.


Atlanta clearly wasn't ready -- not for the monster the Olympics have become. The amazing thing is, other than the news media and some International Olympic Committee members, people seemed to have too much fun to notice.


For 17 days, downtown was turned into a rollicking street party. It was tacky as all get out, with inflatable Gumbies, strolling Elvises and black and white Scarlett O'Haras posing for pictures.


"It's a little bit different than I expected," said Richard King, who brought his wife and two children from Wilmington, North Carolina.


But his final verdict: "It's wonderful. We're having a great time."


In fact, despite the bomb, despite the traffic snarls, despite a subway system bursting at the seams and other logistical and technological snafus, it was hard to find people on the street who didn't consider the Atlanta Games a huge success.


Some Atlantans are embarrassed by all the hawkers and the commercial clutter. But the overwhelming feeling seems to be pride that the city pulled it off and that people from around the world found pleasure in a downtown that locals had all but abandoned.


"The transformation that has taken place in the last 18 months was just amazing," said Robert Foster, a retired administrator for the Centers for Disease Control. He and his wife Ethel, non-Games-goers who went downtown to bask in the glory, proclaimed the Games "an absolute success."


"They said it couldn't happen," said Ethel, as the party continued in Centennial Olympic Park. "It's incredible!"


Like many locals, the Fosters bristled at criticism that their city had overextended itself, that it's just a small town straining too hard to get into the big leagues. Ethel Foster accused the media of "whining" about transportation and technological glitches that affected journalists to a far greater extent than the public at large. "Grin and bear it," she said. "So your bus is late -- so what?"


Said Robert Foster of the national and international journalists who have trashed his town, calling the Atlanta Games the most unorganized ever, "In my opinion, they came in with a bias. They were saying those Southern hicks can't pull this thing off. When they couldn't find anything to criticize, they manufactured something. To me they're just picking at nits."


Asked last week for an assessment of the Games, A.D. Frazier, chief operating officer for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, acknowledged the disappointing technological problems.


Organizers expected the masses of people to overwhelm transportation systems in the early going, he said, adding that adjustments were made in the early days that corrected the problems.


But Frazier's final assessment? "In the main, I think things have gone remarkable well."


And the opinion in the streets seemed to be overwhelmingly favorable.


"Everybody I have talked to has enjoyed the Olympics," said Susan Moss, who works at Macy's downtown. "It has been fun. It is going to be a letdown when this is over."