This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.
Sept. 18, 1990. Maynard Jackson was serving his third term as mayor when, on that September day in Tokyo, the president of the International Olympic Committee announced that Atlanta had won the bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
Jackson's wife and first lady of Atlanta, Valerie Jackson, recently spoke with Lois Reitzes about that pivotal moment, calling the immediate reaction "pure pandemonium." What Jackson recalls most vividly, however, is more akin to peace than pandemonium.
"When Maynard pressed his hands up against his forehead and smoothed his hair back," Valerie Jackson recalled, it was like "he had just come through a new baptism."
That same day, Maynard Jackson told the New York Times, "I've never felt more elated in my entire life ... I felt like an exclamation point has just been laid down in the life of our city."
Long before that exclamation point was laid down in Atlanta's history books, Maynard Jackson laid the groundwork for a robust Cultural Olympiad. In his first term as mayor, Jackson established the Office of Cultural Affairs. Reitzes called the move a "major statement." And while Maynard and Valerie were not directly involved with the Cultural Olympiad, the Office of Cultural Affairs provided the very foundation upon which Atlanta's arts scene could build itself a spotlight on the world stage.