Leila S. Case: ’96 Summer Games exciting river venue

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, August 27, 2016

The phone on the bedside table abruptly jangled me wide awake.
It was 4:45 in the morning. I lifted the receiver to answer and thought, “Who could this be? No one calls at this time of day unless something is wrong.”
“Turn on the TV,” said Margaret, my daughter, calling from her home in Atlanta. As my eyes focused on the screen, I realized something was extremely wrong. And it was all happening in the heart of downtown Atlanta; the very spot where Mark, Anne, my other adult children, and I were headed.
It was Saturday, July 27, 1996, and the WSB-TV news reporter was broadcasting live from Centennial Olympic Park, the heartbeat of the Summer Games, bombed earlier that morning. People were injured and two killed, including an Albany school teacher. The Park was cordoned and law enforcement officers had everything under control but the scene on the television screen showed utter disaster.
We didn’t have tickets for the Olympic venues in Atlanta but planned to visit the Park on our way to Tennessee for the canoe/ kayak competition on the Ocoee River in the Cherokee National Forest near Ducktown.
Were our plans dashed? Indeed not. Mark and Anne were game even if we couldn’t visit Centennial Park but we could stop in downtown Atlanta, have lunch and be on the way to the Ocoee River competition.
For two years leading up to the ’96 Summer Games, my nephew Reid Sisson of Chattanooga, a journalist and “tree hugger,” worked for the state of Tennessee that had established a “development agency” to ramp up for the event. Our tickets came through Reid, the venue’s press chief and director of communications.
It was an exciting afternoon, watching kayaks and canoes maneuver through the white water course, the only in-river course to be used for the Olympic slalom competition. Reid was busy and impressive, directing press operations, meeting representatives from national media outlets and around the world covering the event.
I spoke with Reid this week to reminisce.
“I got paid to talk about and promote something I enjoyed and it didn’t feel like a ‘job’ at all. It was a lot of fun; I was involved with essentially what was a circus event,” said Reid. “Working with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and the US Olympic Committee I learned about organizational management and event management. It was a great experience that spoiled me for mundane work afterwards.”
He did such a good job he was asked to remain with the US Olympic Committee but declined. He wanted to settle down and have a family. Today, Reid is with a company in Chattanooga. He is still a “tree hugger” and enjoys canoeing and hiking the trails with his wife Holly and children, Henry and Amelia. They slip away as often as possible to their place on the lake on Signal Mountain to spend weekends enjoying nature.
Out and about: whew there’s much going on around town. Wave and say so long to Gabriele Stauff, Ph.D., one of the most caring people I have had the pleasure to know. She will be sorely missed in our community as a yoga instructor and active member of Calvary Episcopal Church, where she was a dedicated lay reader. Gabriele retired last spring from Georgia Southwestern State University as professor of English and yoga instructor. She is moving to the Island of Hawaii, specifically the community of Kallani, an intentional community and tourist destination, where people voluntarily care for the property and stay for a month or several years. The focus is on agriculture, perma culture and sustainability living. Gabriele will develop curriculum to teach the volunteers what sustainability is about and how to apply it to everyday living. Good fortune on your new adventure, Gabriele. Elsewhere, Dr. Alex Riccardi and her finance Brandon Horne were honored at an engagement party at Thronateeska Bluffs Plantation last Saturday evening. Hosts were Jim and Billie Gatewood, Jarrett and Joe Hooks, Jerry and Henry Crisp, Nancy Bell, Janet and Hulme Kinnebrew, Elaine and Burton Thomas, Mary and Dan Torbert, Jane and Ricky Arnold, Claire and Chuck Simmerson, Tommye and Ben Easterlin, Ann and Bill Harris, Kaye and Billy Tye, Gwynne and Bill Morton, Sylvia and Donnie Roland, Cherilyn and Buddy Guth, Bobbie and Dr. George Bagley and Theresa and Dr. John Heffernan. Among guests were the bridal couple’s parents, Dr. Lou and Candy Riccardi, Gail and Gene Melvin, Sonny Horne, as well as siblings Ashley Hatcher of Atlanta, Dr. Donnie and Kara McMickle of Macon, Matt and Betsy Melvin and Bradley and Kristi Horne. Meanwhile, Bob and Jenny Lashley’s weekend guests are their daughter Linda Odom and her sons, Brandon and Garrett of Roswell. They will attend “Through His Eyes” at the Rylander tonight and the boys will play golf with Bob. Meanwhile, smile and congratulate former first lady Rosalynn Carter of Plains, Carey Wooten, John Dean and Elena Carne who celebrated birthdays this week.

Leila S. Case lives in Americus.