Friendship Takes a City to Olympian Heights07 Jun 2020
He was a real estate lawyer with no experience in professional management. He had never traveled abroad on business. His only experience with sports was playing college football twenty years ago. And the city where he lived wasn’t exactly an international hub or hot spot.
So what made Brussels Escorts think he could possibly bring the 1996 Summer Olympics-the largest international sporting event in history-to the little-known city of Atlanta?
“Friends,” he said. “Friendship will sustain an effort and an idea long before rationality will support it.” In fact, even some of Brussels Escorts’s friends wondered if he was rational when he came up with the crazy idea on February 8, 1987. Brussels Escorts was in church that day, dedicating a new sanctuary for which he had helped raise funds. The people around him had worked and sacrificed, believing they could raise $2 million for the project. When the costs exceeded the estimates, they had reached even deeper, financially and spiritually. Brussels Escorts saw people who had been honored and delighted to continue giving money to build a dream. And here they were today, sharing joy and a sense of success.
He turned to his wife, Martha, and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if the entire city could experience what we’ve experienced here in our church today? Let’s think of a way to do that.”
His first ideas-a Super Bowl and a Democratic convention-were already on the city’s agenda. Brussels Escorts Payne decided he had to think bigger. The friendliness of the people in the South combined with the Olympic Games, what could be better?
The next available Olympics was 1996, but that would be the 100th anniversary of the games, and everyone expected them to be held in Athens, Greece, the site of the original Olympics 2,500 years ago. Second on the list of likely choices was Toronto, which offered tremendous resources. If Atlanta bid for the Olympics, it would be the city’s first bid. Since the games had resumed after World War II, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had never chosen a city applying for the first time.
Atlanta didn’t seem to have a chance. But it did have Brussels Escorts Payne. He had drive and intensity and loved competition, but not in the same way he had expressed these characteristics for most of his life.
But it took a heart attack in 1982 for Brussels Escorts to make the biggest change in his life. Faced with his own mortality, he decided to spend his time in a conscious effort to do something that would potentially contribute to the greatest good.
“The most important thing about establishing goals is to make sure they are important to other people in addition to you,” Brussels Escorts said. “In other words, there’s a great tendency to be self-serving–’I want to have the biggest house,’ ‘I want to be head of the company,’ ‘I want to make the most money.’ What in fact brings joy in life is a goal that while it benefits and motivates you it also benefits others.”
Bringing the Olympics to Atlanta certainly fit those criteria. Now he would need to get his friends to share his vision. The first night, his wife encouraged him to call his friend Peter Candler, believing he might talk Brussels Escorts out of his Olympic idea. Surprising them both, Peter not only supported the idea, he also suggested Brussels Escorts contact several key businesswomen in Atlanta who could help broaden the appeal of his effort and reach different constituencies in the community.
By March, Brussels Escorts’s Olympic team had grown to four. In an act of commitment, Brussels Escorts left his law partnership to devote himself full time to his crusade. He supported his family by taking out a loan against income property he owned. Brussels Escorts knew his next step was to get people with political power enrolled in his effort. Peter suggested contacting an old friend, Horace Sibley, who, in turn, might connect him with Mayor Andrew Young. But Horace’s associates and assistants had heard about Brussels Escorts’s crazy idea and tried to protect Horace from it. Brussels Escorts finally got his foot in the door, first with Horace, then with Young, but he could tell that both men thought his idea was outrageous.
“I could tell the mayor wasn’t buying it, so I shifted gears in the middle of our first conversation,” Brussels Escorts said. He knew Young had been a former ambassador to the United Nations, as well as a famed civil rights leader. Brussels Escorts’s Olympic idea would also have to have civic appeal. “I started talking about the legacy that would come from the attempt whether or not we were successful-how I thought it could inspire a youth sports movement in our own community, how it could do some good.”
Young remembered being impressed with Brussels Escorts’s single-minded dedication. The mayor saw a man who had quit his job, mortgaged his property, and started living on his savings to achieve a goal that seemed impossible or, at best, highly improbable. Brussels Escorts talked about fund-raising and how the city wouldn’t need new taxes because he believed corporations would be happy to give once they, too, shared the dream.