The Outside Prognosticator: Coping With Atlanta the Violent Mood-Swing Way

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, January 1996

The Outside Prognosticator: Coping With Atlanta the Violent Mood-Swing Way

If you're like us, you have mixed feelings about the Atlanta Olympics. Ponder the dynamic performances to come, the pageantry, and the first-time medal status of deserving sports like mountain biking, and your chest swells to the size of a Chinese woman weight lifter's thigh. But think of network hype, annoying "official sponsor" overkill, and the Atlanta way of throwing a party--who else would raise Olympic funds by building a 1,996-foot hot dog?--and you just might fold into a cringing tuck.

Do not feel weird. You're normal, and all you need to do is recognize the malady--Olympic Love/Hate--and take adequate measures to prepare for it. Start by getting into bipolar rhythm with our handy preview of the Games in all their good, bad, and ugly glory. Then, in six months, sit back and enjoy--and when the synchronized swimming starts, wash down your bile with a frosty one in both mitts.


The Comeback Stories
Dan O'Brien--the flaky member of the Dan-and-Dave decathlon duo who dashed the nation's dream with his "mental errors" in the '92 Olympic trials--is back and favored to win. Bolstering fan's hopes is the fact that Ritalin, a prescription medication that O'Brien now takes for attention deficit disorder, isn't a banned substance.

The Familiar Faces
Eight years after winning four Olympic medals as a spindly 15-year-old swimmer in Seoul, Janet Evans will return for more. Experts say she doesn't have much of a chance, but in this age of teen phenoms, won't it be refreshing to cheer on a grown woman?

The Homeboys
Lance Armstrong and Ned Overend--and gold medals in road racing and mountain biking, respectively.

The Peace and Quiet
With NBC doing the broadcasts, there'll be no more late nights with avuncular hipster Pat O'Brien. Nagging question: Will you catch Bob Costas Fever?

The History
At last the gold-medal soccer match will be held in that locus of Western culture known as Athens...Georgia.

The Uncontrollable Feeling of Dominance Over the Rest of the World Even Though You're Sitting on a Couch
Will U.S. sprinter Michael Johnson win both the 200- and the 400-meter dash, a feat that's never been done? Yep, if last year's results are any indication. No one came within a half-second of him in either event all season. Other reasons to get goose-bumpy: Gail Devers in the 100-meter hurdles, Lynn Jennings in the 10,000 meters, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee in the woman's heptathlon.

The Intrigue
What's really fueling those worm-eating Chinese runners?

The Information Supersmorgasbord
According to the Atlanta 1996 home page on the World Wide Web, more athletes than ever will compete in the women's triple jump. And hey, did you know that the archery competition will be set against the towering backdrop of the world's largest exposed granite monolith? Do you care?

The Fun Never Stops
Four days after closing ceremonies (and less than two hours away by car), you can catch the opening casts of the 1996 Bassmasters Classic Bassin' tournament. Let the strikes begin!


An insane blue-skinned tadpole hatched when focus groups fingered the Games' original mascot--Whatizit, a weird, spermatazoan beastie--as a sure marketing loser, this blob is wriggling toward ubiquity. Last February, the QVC home-shopping network sold 1,000 Izzy toys in 12 seconds. Bottom line: Taste being what it is, suction-cupped Izzies will soon be staring through car windows near you.

With Atlanta hotel rooms long gone, Atlanta homeowners are pimping their spreads for up to $100,000 for 17 days. Who said the Olympic spirit couldn't be folded?

Will Atlanta out-schlock even the "E.T. landing" at the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics? Scary portent: Last fall, Sara Lee, "official packaged meat sponsor" for the Games, assembled a 1,996-foot-long hot dog that stretched twice around the Georgia Dome football field. Its unveiling climaxed when a runner lapped the pup, applying the first squirts of mustard.

Get ready to meet--and meet and meet-- Billy Payne, a 49-year-old real estate lawyer and pinstriped all-things-Atlanta booster who, as CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, is determined to promote himself into the Ueberroth zone. Classy? He's been heard to cackle, "All those people who've been calling us the Bubba Games--we're going to have the last laugh big time. We're taking all that Yankee money."

"Hot" Lanta
NBC's plans for local-color coverage are hush-hush, but before the flame winks out the predictable subject matter--Tara! barbecue! good ol' boys!--may make you want to pull on union-blue woolens and embark on a second flaming March to the Sea.

In Yo' Face for a Fortnight
Ted, Jane, and Jimmy.

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