TOKYO, SEPT. 19 -- When International Olympic Committee Chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch stunned the world Tuesday night by announcing Atlanta would be the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics, Bobby Rearden's mind flashed to winter nights in Guatemala.
More than a year ago, Rearden put his Atlanta insurance business to one side and signed up to work on his city's long-shot bid to become the host of the '96 Games.
"One thing we decided to do," Rearden said, "was to make personal contact with every one of the 88 votes that would be cast when the International Olympic Committee picked the site.
"And because of that decision, I spent more time on airplanes than I ever dreamed I would. I have been to Guatemala three times since January just to get a single vote."
Nobody knows how Guatemala's delegate to the IOC, Willi Kaltschmitt Lujan, voted in the secret balloting here Tuesday, but Atlanta did manage to scratch up enough support, vote by vote, to edge sentimental favorite Athens for the right to host the centennial games of the modern Olympic era.
The City of Atlanta spent approximately $7 million in a five-year-plus worldwide campaign to win the nod. And tonight, as city officials hosted a southern fried chicken and Coca-Cola party in an ornate Tokyo ballroom, the hundreds of Atlantans here felt the time and money was worth it.
"It was great for our city just to make the effort," Rearden said. "The day -- what was it, three years ago? -- when we were designated the U.S. candidate for the '96 games, that felt like an enormous victory. But to come here and win the whole thing -- that's something Atlanta will be able to treasure forever."
In accordance with the traditions of southern hospitality, Atlanta turned the campaign into a highly personalized endeavor. More than 70 members of the IOC were induced to visit Atlanta to see the city's facilities. And when these international visitors arrived, Atlanta never let them stay in a hotel. They were always housed with local families.
The effect of that effort was visible early this morning in the Beer Garden of the Takanawa Prince Hotel, where the IOC meetings are being held.
At the center table, pouring beers for each other as if they were lifelong friends, sat Atlanta lawyer Billy Payne, who chaired the city's Olympic drive, and a burly Soviet named Vitali Smirnov, a member of the IOC's executive committee.
Atlanta's selection was met with some bitterness by representatives of Athens, the birthplace of the Olympic Games and the venue of the 1896 Games, the first of the modern era. Not only the Athenians, but almost everybody else had considered Athens the likely winner of the competition.
Today, Athenians were complaining that the choice of a U.S. city represented capitulation to the power of the American dollar.
Olympic officials heatedly denied that. But they conceded that the '96 Games should break all records for broadcast income, particularly because many events can be televised live during prime time on the U.S. East Coast.