01 Dec 1996

Victory Lap: Frazier, Olympics COO, Reviews the Games


A.D. Frazier, Jr. (85th AMP), COO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG), was featured in a June 1996 Bulletin article about the Olympics. Now a partner at Invesco, an Atlanta-based investment management firm that manages some $90 billion in assets worldwide, Frazier shared some post-Olympics thoughts with the Bulletin during a September interview.

Does ACOG deserve a gold, silver, or bronze for its performance?

I'll leave that to the judges to decide. The record shows that we sold just over 8.6 million tickets, more than Barcelona and Los Angeles combined, and we're on track to finish in the black. Practically everyone who came to Atlanta loved the Games. Virtually all the corporate sponsors signed up again for Sydney in 2000.

For the athletes, I believe that the venues, the Athletes' Village, and the logistical conduct of the events were sparkling successes. More countries won medals than ever before, befitting the record number of athletes and nations that took part.

What were the problem areas?

For an event of this magnitude, perfection is elusive. Transportation delays were inevitable, considering the sheer volume of people downtown. As for the much-publicized computer snafus, 98 percent of the technology worked well, a good record considering how huge an installation of software and hardware there was.

What about complaints that the Games were too commercial?

I have to grit my teeth a bit when that charge is leveled. Every sports federation or governing body in the world is heavily sponsored by commerce, and commercial sponsorships are part of every major sporting event on the planet. The Olympic Games remain the only major competition of any sort that doesn't allow in-stadium signage. So I resist that charge; I believe the Games were commercial within proper bounds.

That said, the hawking of merchandise outside the venues was more than I personally would have liked. But a certain amount of that is just the way things are in America. At the Centennial Olympic Park, many people actually liked the carnival atmosphere.

Did you have a chance to enjoy any of the Games once they started?

I attended the opening and closing ceremonies but none of the athletic competitions. I was at the Operations Center all day and spent nights in my office.

But anytime of day or night, I could step out on the balcony and see throngs of people having the experience of a lifetime. That impression is what I will carry away from the Games more than any other.

After five years with hardly a day off, what's it like to have all the pressure and anxiety finally over?

The feeling of sudden departure from the intensity of the event is a stunning thing. Friends at ACOG who are Vietnam vets liken it to the experience of being on patrol in the jungle one day and stepping off a plane in Seattle or San Francisco the next evening. After years of being totally consumed by my job, I'm now trying to focus on regaining a balanced life.

What are you doing to relax?

Actually, we're still busy at ACOG, dismantling our operation: outprocessing tens of thousands of employees, selling or returning materiel, closing the books, writing a final report, and so forth. In a matter of weeks, this Fortune 500-sized organization will have disappeared completely.

What's the mood in Atlanta in the aftermath of the Games?

People feel a certain sense of loss now that the Games are over. Atlantans are proud of how well their city hosted the Olympics, especially the way it came back after the Centennial Park bombing. There was a remarkable outpouring of concern and caring from citizens who simply would not be intimidated by a random act of terrorism. As tragic as the bombing was, the sense of coming together that emerged from it was just as powerful.

Would you take on the ACOG job again, knowing what you know now?

That's impossible to answer, but five years after it all began, I can say this was an experience I absolutely would not have missed for anything.


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