Early morning, September 18, 1990, hundreds of Atlantans gathered downtown at Underground Atlanta to watch a telecast of the International Olympic Committee announcing Atlanta as site of the 1996 Olympics. The giddy celebration, at the pricey tourist center partially funded by federal funds for low-income job development, was a troubling omen for certain poor and majority-black Atlanta neighborhoods. And as the ticker-tape enthusiasm settled down to street-level planning for Olympics construction, neighborhood residents and 1996 Olympics planners realized a conflict loomed.
The Atlanta Olympics proposal included an impressive Olympic Village near the Georgia Institute for Technology downtown, but omitted that Georgia Tech abuts 75 acres of public housing plagued by drugs, crime, and residents' financial frustration. South of downtown, surrounding the proposed $150 million Olympics Stadium, lie three neighborhoods whose economic vitality has steadily eroded over the decades due in part to construction imposed on them by developers.
The private Atlanta Committee on the Olympic Games (ACOG) and its public overseer, Metropolitan Atlanta Olympic Games Authority (MAOGA), must marshall Atlanta's resources for a six-year game plan that includes a $1.5 billion budget. Most Atlantans are cheering them on. The total Olympics experience is expected to bring an estimated $4.3 billion to Georgia. Some neighborhood residents fear, however, it may be one more debilitating obstacle to economic justice.