ATLANTA, SEPT. 18 -- Boosterism has long been this city's creed, whether it was hyping itself as the home of "Gone With The Wind," or promoting itself as the cradle of the civil rights movement. But even Atlanta's biggest boosters didn't think Atlanta had a prayer to win the 1996 Olympic Games.
So when the announcement, live from Tokyo, was broadcast here this morning, Atlanta was dumbstruck with joy.
Fireworks exploded above downtown's "Underground Atlanta" shopping complex, where 3,000 gathered to watch the 7:49 a.m. announcement on big screen TV.
Balloons and confetti cascaded from office towers.
"Nobody thought that we could be successful," said Fulton County Commission Chairman Michael Lomax, who had prepared a concession speech.
"I felt like I was in the Miss America pageant or something, waiting for the announcement," one young woman said as the hushed crowd listened for the news.
Within minutes, the afternoon Atlanta Journal was on the street with "IT'S ATLANTA" bannered across the front page. Soon after there was another extra, screaming: "WORLD CLASS!"
All day, as the beer and frozen daquiris flowed, the city was alive with more talk of self-promotion: the Olympics would bring new jobs, new construction, a new image. By the evening news, local newscasters were testing the latest of Atlanta slogans: "City Too Busy to Hate," and "Capital of the New South" and "Capital of the 21st Century."
In the 1970s and 1980s, Atlanta rebuilt itself into a downtown of skyscrapers and high-rise hotels. Under former mayor Andrew Young, the city cultivated a reputation as an international trade center and Young traveled the world promoting Atlanta. Some felt that paid off.
"Atlanta has already got the hotels, it has the stadiums, and it has a convention center," said Irma O'Connell, sipping a drink at a downtown bar.
Here the Olympics are regarded as a needed boost to a rapidly cooling economy. "The Olympics will get us jobs and different opportunities," said Brandi Wright, 20. "It should make a difference to our homeless population out on the streets."
Atlanta already is salivating over the economic statistics bantered about: One estimate is that the Games will bring 84,000 jobs to Georgia and infuse $3.5 billion into the economy, though some local economists already are warning Georgia not to get too caught up in Olympic fever. Donald Ratajczak, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University, called the estimates inflated and cautioned that the state not get trapped into paying for cost overruns on construction projects.
The Olympic bid started three years ago when Atlanta lawyer Billy Payne suggested to Young, mayor at the time, that the city apply.
Payne, a former Georgia football player, convinced Young to go after the Games. Young, drawing on his contacts established when he was former president Jimmy Carter's UN ambassador, traveled the globe selling the notion to anyone who would listen.
"Andy Young gets the credit for this," said Marcus Dowling, an accountant celebrating this afternoon. "Billy Payne had the dream. Andy Young made it happen."