Video: Start of Summer Olympics brings back memories

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Twenty-five years ago this week, the Opening Ceremony for the Atlanta Olympic Games produced one of the most memorable moments – sports or otherwise – of our lifetime.

As members of the United States delegation, Dan McDonald and I were at Olympic Stadium to see Muhammad Ali take the torch from Janet Evans and light the Olympic cauldron, signifying the start of the 1996 games, which marked the centennial of the modern Olympics.

In my role as a press officer for the U.S. track and field team, I got to witness more greatness a few days later, again inside the Olympic Stadium – which would later become home to the Atlanta Braves and now serves as the home field for Georgia State University’s football team.

Within the span of an hour, Carl Lewis pulled a surprise by capturing the gold medal in the long jump – the 10th and final gold in his storied career – and Michael Johnson capped off his double gold performance by shattering the world record in the 200 meters in a time of 19.32 seconds.

Over the next 17 days, there will be more great moments to witness, though COVID-19 will no doubt change the atmosphere and tenor of the Tokyo Olympics, already pushed back 364 days because of the virus.

For many of these athletes, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For the best of the best, the opportunity comes more than once, but the performance is the culmination of four – or this time around, five – years of hard work and training to be the best the world has to offer.

Since I had a chance to be inside that bubble a quarter-century ago, these couple of weeks remain special. Enjoy the action.

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Lenny Vangilder


Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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