It’s the end of the year, which means it’s the end of our year-long look back at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics and Paralympics. We discuss our favorite Atlanta stories from the year, and we also have lightning rounds from some TKFLASTANIS with Atlanta connections:
- City planners Michael Dobbins and Randal Roark
- Laura Berg, member of the 1996 US women’s softball team
Plus we have an update on the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai and news from the International Paralympic Committee (including our least favorite topic: doping).
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Hello, fans of TKFLASTAN, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. I am your host, Jill Jaracz joined as always by my lovely co-host. Alison Brown. Alison, hello, how are you feeling?
[00:00:41] Alison: Very nostalgic.
[00:00:43] Jill: This is the last show for Atlanta 1996.
[00:00:47] Alison: I know. And this has been such an adventure for us because one, it was just an idea last year that we said, oh, should we focus our historical look back on one games. And then we really got into it. And I think Atlanta was such a good one. I mean, the, the listeners chose it for us, but I think it ended up being a really good choice for us because we both remember it, but we were both pretty young.
[00:01:12] Jill: Like when you say pretty young, what do you mean?
[00:01:16] Alison: I mean, did we have gray hair yet? No, we did not.
Okay. Basically anything that’s not the past 15 years. I think of myself as a child. I mean, we certainly weren’t. It was our first thing on.
[00:01:38] Jill: It was our first games out of college.
[00:01:41] Alison: Oh yeah. What about oh, no, not, no, not mine. Okay. Not mine, but close.
[00:01:47] Jill: Yeah. That whole two years thing.
[00:01:51] Alison: Right. That was right when it split. Yeah. But yeah, certainly the first summer games. Yeah. It was kind of my first adult summer games and, and it was a very different experience. And now being an old lady, it’s a very different experience because we were more peers to the athletes then.
[00:02:09] Jill: Right. And now we’re more peers to Muhammad Ali lighting the flame.
[00:02:17] Alison: Now we’re more peers to like the moms in the stands,
But you know, there are some athletes that we are still peers to, the ones who have been to like eight Olympics.
[00:02:30] Jill: Very true. Very true. So keep on keeping on all of you. The interesting thing is, in all the stories we told this year, I thought, for sure, like when we got Atlanta 1996, I’m like, we lived these games. We know them. We remember them pretty well. It wasn’t– 25 years is kind of long, but yes, there was a lot of stuff I knew and remembered, but so much that I didn’t know, especially for the Paralympics. I mean, because the Paralympics was a huge afterthought for these games, but I learned so much. And it was pretty interesting.
[00:03:10] Alison: Okay. Okay. So later, so this would be what you think about while we’re doing the rest of the show. What’s your favorite story that we told? So just kind of hold that, hold that thought. Cause I, I do, I was thinking about this this morning and I know what mine is. So I’m going to give you a few minutes to think, think about which one you liked, the either you liked or that stuck with you the most.
[00:03:31] Jill: Okay. All right. Okay. So then we will, we’re going to do a couple of lightening rounds today because it is here in the U S is coming up on Christmas Eve. So we wanted to give you a show, but understand that you’re, you may be doing Christmas stuff if you’re celebrating and want something a little shorter or, or need to like step away from the family for a few minutes.
And we’re here for you.
[00:03:54] Alison: We are here for you.
[00:03:58] Jill: So, we are going to do a couple of Atlanta related lightning rounds today. First up are our urban planners, Michael Dobbins and Randal Roark, whom we first talked to this past summer. Take a listen.
[00:04:11] Jill: What is your first memory of the Olympics from when you were a kid? Michael, we’ll start with you.
[00:04:18] Michael: I think my first memory was when the state of Colorado decided to reject this winter Olympics. I think that was in ’74, something like that. ’72.
[00:04:27] Randal: I think mine was a Rome, I believe in ’60 cause I was a budding young architecture student and I was blown away by the venues, design of a lot of those venues, and it was televised. Wasn’t the first one televised, but it was one that was pretty accessible by TV.
[00:04:46] Jill: What was your favorite moment during the Atlanta games?
[00:04:51] Randal: Opening ceremonies for me. That was a thrill.
[00:04:54] Michael: I think I agree with that.
[00:04:57] Jill: Did you know, that Muhammad Ali was going to light–
[00:04:59] Randal: Did not, and my seat was right below there. And it was, that was quite a spectacular moment.
[00:05:06] Jill: We’re asking everybody from Atlanta this one. What are your thoughts on Izzy?
[00:05:12] Michael: Thoughts on what?
[00:05:14] Jill: Izzy, the mascot.
[00:05:16] Randal: That was Mike’s, that was Mike’s thought right there.. On what?
Well, it was, you know, it was a clever idea, but Izzy disappeared into cyberspace and never really materialized and didn’t become flesh. You know, It didn’t, somehow disappeared on us somewhere along the way. And so it was it was not, not a successful icon adventure.
[00:05:45] Michael: I think related to that, related to the tents and the vendors and everything that the national and international media was pretty sure that Atlanta sucked from the beginning and then formed their opinion not knowing anything about it plus, or minus, they just thought, well, it’s just a redneck city. Of course it wasn’t, it was a city that was majority black at the time.
So there’s a lot of, a lot of stories get picked up and then they get replicated and then they get amplified and then they distort any sense of, of reality. And I think Atlanta suffered a lot from that and probably still does. I mean, I think your questions, this is not for me to answer this, for anyone listening to answer.
But, um, I’m pretty sure that the issues you’re raising are, are ones that are going to stick in people’s memory across the country. Of course, there are those people who weren’t born.
[00:06:38] Alison: Shush, we don’t talk about them.
[00:06:41] Jill: Uh, If you could be an Olympian in any sport, it doesn’t matter if you have the talent, what would it be?
[00:06:48] Michael: Well, I’m 82 years old. It would be golf.
[00:06:55] Randal: Well, you know what I’m going to say. I went, I was not a big fan or follower of equestrian events, but I had good friend that was, and we had tickets to the finals out at the park in Conyers, and uh, that event blew me away. And if I could be in sport, I think I that’s what I would try to do. Of course, have to know how to ride, but I’d work on that.
[00:07:21] Alison: And the equestrian events, we’ve talked about equestrian in Atlanta. That was no joke. That was a serious competition. that cycle.
[00:07:31] Randal: Yes. Yeah, it was. So it was really amazing.
[00:07:35] Jill: And finally, what is your favorite Olympic souvenir?
[00:07:39] Michael: Well, mine, which I use every day. My mind was a basic black
[00:07:46] Michael: that has the Atlanta, Atlanta has the Olympic symbol in it, and it has a mayor, Bill Campbell underneath it, which I think there was a little friction between IOC and the city sort of freely expropriating the logos and so on and placing them on their own things And, and, it’d be good to get people’s reactions, IOC and Samaranch and all that, because this is the most unusual Olympics or whatever it was, he called it. And, that, I think it’s a, this, another thing related to the fine, I I’m I’m off. I don’t have that expertise to be clear about this, but I think that the IOC made less money than they are accustomed to making from the Atlanta Olympics.
And now I think they’ve corrected that by asserting an authoritarian top-down structure, which London, I think, resisted to some extent and that, if you go to Sochi or you go to Beijing or I’d be interesting to see how the Tokyo Olympics turn out,
[00:08:42] Randal: I don’t really have a favorite, but the one that I, that I have that I can see every day is.
Is a cat one big cat, but it’s a absolutely chock full of pens from all the countries and events that I was given or I collected. And, and that’s uh, that’s nice because it kind of covers covers the whole, the whole set of events for me.
[00:09:06] Jill: Thank you so much, Michael and Randal. Their book “Atlanta’s Olympic Resurgence: How the 1996 Games Revived a Struggling City” is available through our bookshop.org site. That’s bookshop.org/shop/flame alive pod. You know that anything you purchase through that website we get a little commission from whether it’s a title we recommend or not, but this was actually kind of an interesting book.
It’s a little, it’s a little academic, but it’s interesting in how much the city changed because of the Olympics. And I thought that was interesting.
[00:09:39] Alison: And I grew up outside of New York City in the seventies and the eighties. And it was interesting for me because New York city went through such a transformation.
If you were in New York City in the seventies, you know what I’m talking about. And Atlanta went through something similar a little bit later. But just a lot of that resonated to me and in that book, and it’s not something we talked about when we talked about with the, with the authors, but that’s something that’s up.
So if you’ve ever lived in a city that sort of went from that gritty kind of, a lot of poverty, a lot of, crime issues. And then all of a sudden gets this glitzy sheen put on it. This book was very interesting from that perspective.
[00:10:20] Jill: Sidewalks, man. Sidewalks and trees. They do magic.
Before we get to our second lightning round, we’d like to give a special thank you to all of our, Patreon patrons for providing financial support to the show and keeping our flame alive.
If you would like to be a Patreon patron of the week, you can take a look at our different levels of support and very cool bonus gifts at Patreon.com slash flame alive pod. And if you would like to give us a one-time holiday bonus, we have lots of options for one-time donations. Check out flame alive pod.com/support for all of them, including PayPal, Venmo, Buy Me a Coffee and Ko-fi.
So next up we have a softball coach, Laura Berg, who was a member of the first US women’s Olympic softball team, which took gold at Atlanta in 1996. Take a listen.
All right. Shall we move on to the lightning round?
[00:11:15] Alison: Yeah, let’s do lightning round.
[00:11:16] Laura Berg: Oh boy. Okay.
[00:11:18] Alison: So what is your first memory of the Olympics from when you were a kid?
[00:11:23] Laura Berg: My first memory was when I was playing or no. When
[00:11:27] Alison: you, before you were playing, when you were a little kid.
[00:11:30] Laura Berg: Okay. I remember watching Nadia Comenici in the Olympic Games.
[00:11:34] Alison: That’s mine too.
[00:11:36] Laura Berg: Yep. Yep. I remember that. And I was like, I, and I’ve never done gymnastics in my life, but I’m like, oh, I’m going to be in the Olympics. And it was Nadia.
[00:11:45] Alison: Where do you keep your many, many Olympic medals?
[00:11:51] Laura Berg: You’re going to laugh. I keep them in a safe next to my gun.
[00:11:54] Jill: Hey, that’s a good place. Yeah.
[00:11:58] Laura Berg: Yes.
[00:12:01] Alison: Do you ever just like take them out and look at them like for yourself?
[00:12:05] Laura Berg: No. No. I’ll take them out if people like, ask about seeing them or if I go to a school, or go and work at clinic, I’ll bring them with me.
[00:12:16] Alison: And what is your favorite training exercise?
Oh, weights. I love lifting. And just something about, you know, feeling yourself, get stronger.
I’ve always, I’ve always enjoyed lifting,
uh, what Olympic sport, other than softball would you play or coach?
[00:12:33] Jill: And if you were on the LAPD, we might have to take anything marksmanship off the table too.
[00:12:38] Laura Berg: Good question. Probably basketball.
[00:12:41] Jill: Hmm. How come?
[00:12:42] Laura Berg: Uh, I enjoyed playing basketball in high school. That was my second favorite sport.
[00:12:47] Jill: Are you excited about three on three or three X, three, sorry, three X three.
[00:12:52] Laura Berg: What are all these sports you guys are like?
[00:12:55] Alison: We’re not making stuff up! Three X, three, is a new, it’s a new sport in Tokyo.
[00:13:01] Laura Berg: What – you’re kidding me.
[00:13:03] Jill: No, no, there’s, there’s regular five on five basketball. And then Tokyo is debuting three X three, which is, it’s three on three, but there’s different rules and there’s, it’s a half court game. And it’s like 11 minutes long. Yeah. Yeah. We, we talked with the three X three player a couple of weeks ago and I’m super excited to watch it because it is fast.
[00:13:24] Laura Berg: Oh, I’ll have to make sure I keep my eyes open for that. Yeah.
[00:13:28] Alison: And other than your medals, what is your favorite Olympic souvenir?
[00:13:32] Laura Berg: Dirt. I have dirt from all of the Olympic, um, left-handed batters box of all the fields that I have played at.
[00:13:39] Jill: Oh, then is an awesome souvenir!
[00:13:42] Laura Berg: I actually even have second base from the 2004 Olympic games.
Yeah. I asked the field crew if I can take the second base. And he said, yeah, go ahead and take it. And so it’s got the Olympic rings on it and it’s dirty and it, and you can tell it’s been used. And I have it sitting on my wall.
[00:14:00] Alison: Where does the idea of taking the dirt come from?
[00:14:03] Laura Berg: Um, I don’t know.
I don’t know. I just, I started doing it in 96. I have dirt from all the Olympic fields. I have dirt from, Fresno State where I played college college. I have dirt from Oklahoma City where we won the College World Series, and I have dirt from the old Yankee Stadium. We did a clinic there and I grabbed some dirt from there.
[00:14:24] Jill: Oh my gosh. Do you feel a difference from field to field when you’re playng
[00:14:29] Laura Berg: Oh, there is a difference. Yeah. Different types of dirt, the way it bounces, different grass. It’s, it’s, they’re all very different. Yeah. Some is hard, some soft. And so it kind of changes your game a little bit.
[00:14:41] Jill: Oh, that’s fascinating. And I bet you could probably go to Athens now and walk into the softball stadium and take a chair and nobody would notice.
[00:14:48] Laura Berg: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:14:50] Jill: Oh, it’s so sad.
It is. It is very sad. It was a beautiful stadium. They did a great job, but it’s sad to see it. Yeah. What it is today.
[00:14:59] Alison: And all I keep thinking is be careful who you hire as a housekeeper. With all these little things of dirt.
[00:15:07] Laura Berg: Yeah. They’re little, little tiny little jars. Yep. They’re on display.
[00:15:12] Alison: That’s fantastic. I think that might be the best souvenir we’ve heard.
[00:15:18] Laura Berg: Really?,
[00:15:18] Jill: Yeah, that’s pretty awesome.
[00:15:21] Alison: It’s certainly the most unique. I know you’re not supposed to use unique as a, as a qualifier, but yeah, that’s, that’s pretty cool. Excellent. I think we’re good. We’re good. So thank you so much, Laura. This was fantastic.
[00:15:38] Jill: Thank you so much. Laura, Laura finished her ninth season at the helm of the Oregon state University softball program in 2021.
[00:15:48] Alison: And was an assistant coach for the team that went to Tokyo.
[00:15:51] Jill: That’s right. Silver medalists. And has the world’s best souvenir
[00:15:56] Alison: Hands down. That is the best souvenir we have heard from, from anybody. I thought it at the time and listening back, nothing has changed my mind. That is by far the best we’ve ever come across.
[00:16:08] Jill: Agreed. Agreed. So back to your question.
[00:16:12] Alison: So do you have any answer yet?
[00:16:15] Jill: I can get one. I can get and, and like every thing I do, I have two answers.
[00:16:21] Alison: Okay. So I’m going to go first so that if you pick a different one.
My favorite story that we did was actually one of your stories. And that was the equestrian competition.
[00:16:31] Jill: Oh, oh!
[00:16:32] Alison: With with Australia getting punctured lungs, people breaking things, but you know, you don’t come to the Olympics to be a wimp. I love it because one, equestrian is not a sport that gets a lot of attention.
And it should cause it’s amazing. And it’s a sport that actually gets made fun of a lot. It’s a sport that I ended up watching a lot of in Tokyo and just amazed. And then just the whole story was so fantastic. All the injuries and all these athletes and, and the horse is being hurt and everybody coming together and Australia winning that gold medal. It was a great story!
[00:17:10] Jill: I have one for each of us. I think the one from you I liked was the dancing men or the flying men. The, where we see that everywhere there at every auto dealership. If you don’t see a dancing waving man at an auto dealership, you will see the giant inflatable gorilla on the roof.
So that’s America for you. But to think that those were something and are a piece of art created for the opening ceremonies of an Olympics is not even a. It’s a little dumbfounding to think that it went from art to sales gimmick, and it, when you say it like that, it sounds kind of sad, but it’s also kind of interesting how that type of art captured people’s imaginations enough to continue using it decades later.
So, and then I think one of my favorite stories, cause every time I looked something up, everything just got crazier and crazier, but I did love the fact that Dolph Lundgren was attached to the men’s modern pentathlon team.
[00:18:27] Alison: It is in that category of you can’t make this stuff up. If we put that in the Olympic movie, they would laugh us out of the studio, right? Some random guy from a Rocky movie is doing modern pen is the honorary manager of the modern pentathlete team. What?
[00:18:50] Jill: So, yeah, and I really would like to see. Pentathlete or whatever his pentathlon movie is because really, who makes a movie about modern pentathlon? I bet —
[00:19:02] Alison: He will break you.
So there was just so much about that. We actually just got in the mail. We did get the history of modern pentathlon book. So I’m curious to see–
Is Dolph Lundgren in the index?
[00:19:17] Jill: He is actually.
And I appreciate the fact that you immediately went to, is there an index and yes, there is an index,
[00:19:28] Alison: Sorry. See, that’s what research has taught us. You need an index in these books, people, we need to find our Dolph Lundgren stories.
[00:19:40] Jill: We just have a quick Beijing, 2022 update for you today. It’s the fact that we have an update on Peng Shuai and where is she. Reuters is reporting that Peng Shuai the tennis star, who has been kind of incommunicado and not reachable since uh, an accusation of sexual assault was posted on her social media.
She denies now that she’d have her ever been sexually assaulted and that the social media posts she had made had been misunderstood. So, that’s an interesting twist in the story. She was talking to Lianhe Zaobao, a Singapore media outlet, and made those remarks. And she was at a cross country skiing event in Shanghai when she did so.
So, she didn’t elaborate any further. She says she’s been living at home in Beijing without supervision. And Reuters has not been able to reach her since the original post. The Women’s Tennis Association said uh, it was good to see her in a public setting. We hope she’s doing well, but they still think that there’s issues going on.
[00:21:04] Alison: Heartbreaking.
[00:21:06] Jill: It is because when I read this, it was really kind of like– it’s one of those that you hear about all the time. Oh, we were forced to make these statements and then if they ever leave the country for good, you hear the actual story.
[00:21:20] Alison: Yet again, another instance of people not protecting the athletes.
[00:21:28] Jill: It’ll be interesting to see how this continues to play out and what role she will play at the Olympics, because I’m sure she will play some sort of role at the Olympics
[00:21:38] Alison: Really, Jill, it’s Christmas.
[00:21:44] Jill: Merry Christmas, Alison, we have a doping problem. And. Surprise. It’s from the International Paralympic Committee, who has disqualified Spanish wheelchair basketball player. Amadou Diallo Diouf from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games after he committed an anti-doping rule violation for having Sibutramine metabolites in a urine sample.
So his individual results from Tokyo 2020 are subject to disqualification. The team itself is not. yet because if more than two members of the team had had anti-doping rule violations, they could have, have faced additional sanctions, but that’s not the case. So the team’s fourth place result stands. The IPC now refers the matter to the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation to determine any sanctions for the athlete.
Forgot to mention some International Paralympic Committee news last week. So here we go. Little, another little Christmas present for you. Andrew Parsons, reelected as president and Duane Kale was also reelected for a second four -year term as IPC vice president, both ran unopposed.
[00:22:57] Alison: Don’t care about Duane. Just as long as Andrew Parsons sticks around.
[00:23:01] Jill: And the other big thing that happened at the IPC General Assembly was that a new constitution was approved by membership with 96% passing. It follows work that they started in 2018. And I think this is really a turning point, in the IPCs history to become an overarching international organization for para sport, which would put it more in line with the IOC.
[00:23:28] Alison: I hope 10 years from now, because of so often when we look back historically, we’ve had to reassess a lot of these administrators and not in a good way. And Andrew Parsons has clearly done so much for growing the Paralympic movement. And I will be so heartbroken if 10 years from now something comes out about how awful he is, because he he’s done so much for the Paralympics and for athletes with disabilities.
And I, I, so Andrew, please don’t break my heart.
[00:24:04] Jill: Right? So, the IPC’s purpose will now be a focus on promoting inclusion in society through para sports, specifically in its leadership of the Paralympic movement, its supervision of the Paralympic games and its support of the National Paralympic Committees, International Federations, regional organizations, and athletes.
They are going to work to improve engagement measures, particularly for athletes to allow for wider participation. They really want to get more athlete participation in the IPC, which is good. They want to clarify roles at the top of the structure and align the committees to fit the strategic priorities of the organization.
Nice little note that they want the people who sit on committees to have skills. And I think what that means is that, again, we’re coming to this turning point. A lot of times people sit on committees either because we need a warm body to fill that and you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing, or you have some inkling, and then when you get in there, you realize, oh, I don’t have the skills and we don’t know how to get the skills kind of thing, but they’re going to work to have expertise leading the show. They want to be diverse and they want to prioritize the appointment of people with disabilities and people from all regions of the world and gender balance, big focus on integrity and transparency and transparency of decisions and the decision making process.
What I want to know is because we didn’t get any notices of like press conferences, because like TBach has press conferences all the time. We don’t get those from Andrew Parsons. I want to know what the IPC is going to start having press conferences. I don’t know, you know, and they don’t get the same kind of news coverage that the IOC gets globally.
I mean, like I’m sure Inside the Games and us and maybe Around the Rings and may and, and some, and probably disability focused organizations and outlets care, but it’s not like the New York Times is chomping at the bit to cover para.
[00:26:15] Alison: Right. Are they getting requests for a news conference? Cause what’s the point of doing a news conference if nobody shows up?
[00:26:21] Jill: Put that on our list.
[00:26:22] Alison: So Andrew, I’m going to call you and say, I would like to chat.
[00:26:28] Jill: I would love to chat with Andrew,
[00:26:29] Alison: Oooh, I would love to chat with Andrew Parsons. That would be amazing!
[00:26:34] Jill: But most importantly, the IPC is going to cease acting as an international federation for 10 IPC sports.
So we heard That the IOC used to do this as well. The IOC was in charge of modern pentathlon for a long time, but now, and, and that was the same with the IPC. It just because there probably wasn’t enough participation to warrant a sole international federation, or a parallel able-bodied federation maybe didn’t want to take on the Paralympic aspect of the sport. So it has been the, international federation for 10 sports. And now it’s going to stop doing that, and we’ll have a exit process that it hopes to complete by the end of 2026. So it’s going to create something called the World Para Sport Unit that will be independent of the IPC with its own board and set staff.
And that group will figure out how to make that exit process happen. Well, that’s a huge undertaking, but it’s a very exciting turning point for the IPC.
And on that note, that’s going to do it for this week. Let us know what you thought about our Atlanta 1996 coverage.
[00:27:48] Alison: You can get in touch with us through email@example.com. Call or text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. Flame it. Our social handle is at flame alive pod, and be sure to join the, Keep the Flame Alive Podcast Group on Facebook.
[00:28:08] Jill: Next week, we will be wrapping up the 2021 year and looking forward to our Olympic year by talking with some listeners. So, look forward to that. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep the flame alive.