20170919

TELEVISION

In the 1993 pilot movie, 'Staying Afloat', Larry Hagman played Alexander Turnbull Hollingsworth III, a disinherited playboy with a passion for money and the high life. Set in Palm Beach, Florida, "I thought Dallas was rich, but Palm Beach is something else. There are $10 million houses with $10 million yachts out back - hundreds of properties like that. I asked about one of these 35-year-old billionaires who wasn't home. 'Well, he comes down about one week a year,' I was told." 

The 'Chicago Tribune' understood the boat was the key to Larry Hagman's character, "I've got the greatest bloody boat for this show. We fought and we fought over the boat we'd use. They kept coming up with these $10 million all-white all-plastic look-alikes. I wanted something like Franklin D. Roosevelt's yacht. The insurance company kept saying, 'What if it catches fire?' I said, 'What is this 'if' (bleep)? You're iffing us out of the business. 

"I'm gonna start my own political party - WGAS. Who Gives a (bleep). Besides WGAS, I'm promoting a group called PMS. The Protect the Mosquito Society. Mosquitoes are God's creatures just as much as whales or spotted owls. It'll cost you $10,000 to join the PMS, but the money will go to research to mate the large slow Alaska mosquito with the small fast Panama one. So I'm waiting for your check." 

As Alexander Turnbull Hollingsworth III, Larry Hagman noted, "All my life I've written checks for a living. Now the money has run out. I need to find a way to support myself, my yacht, my manservant and my cat. I have this teensy tax problem. I say: 'Tax problem? I haven't paid taxes in years.' So the gummint says they'll whittle down my problem if I work for them. I'm not too smart, but working for the gummint you don't have to be too smart." 

In the movie, a Justice Department agent (played by Gregg Henry) presented the government's (or gummint) offer to subsidize Alexander Turnbull Hollingsworth III's continual lifestyle, if in exchange he served as an informant on crimes within the upper class. In explaining the relevance of the movie 'Staying Afloat' had to modern times, Larry Hagman told the 'Tribune Media Services', "He is having to do something for the first time in his life, and a lot of people in our society now (in 1993) are having to start over again.

"They have to retrain and find something else to do, and the work force is getting younger and younger. Older people are going to have to find some way of functioning, maybe through service to the community. We can all use some new input into what life is all about, but I don’t want to get too serious (with the show). I just want to keep it light and amusing."

As the star and executive producer of 'Staying Afloat', Larry Hagman told the 'Chicago Tribune', "Sometimes they (NBC and TriStar Television) forget I'm a producer too. They say, 'It's our policy not to discuss actors' performances when there's an actor present.' I said, 'Well, don't forget I'm a producer. If one other producer is there, I have to be there.' I love working on location in Florida (Fort Lauderdale) where we're out from under the thumbs of the 7-year-olds running the network. Some of them said to me, 'Hey you're a pretty funny guy - you should do a comedy.' Yeah, like they never saw 'I Dream of Jeannie' (1965-1970)."

Claire Yarlett of 'The Colbys' played Lauren. However Larry Hagman insisted the characters should not be romantically involved in order to keep fans tuned in, "When Jeannie and the master got married, everybody lost interest. So it was kind of non-consummated after all, they lived in the same house, in the same rooms for 4 years, and the 5th year they got married. So, I think the non-consummation is much more fun, as long as you have that sexual energy going."

The 'Sun Sentinel' understood, "NBC is spending more than $3 million on this two-hour movie, the pilot for a planned series beginning this winter (January 1994)." Although Larry Hagman preferred to do 6 two-hour movies of 'Staying Afloat' a year. In making 'Staying Afloat', Larry Hagman recounted, "(It's a balance between) trying to get what I want and what they (Tri-Star Television) think we should have. I would like a certain amount of class to this. There's always compromise, but they (producers Albert S. Ruddy and Gray Frederickson) have backed me, and they're quite supportive in the taste that we're all trying to get on the show."

As producer, Larry Hagman remarked, "Producers seem to work all the time. As an actor, you just come on and do your job and you’re off. You go home and have dinner, but producers are always on the phone; some catastrophe is always happening. (On 'Staying Afloat') we lost two of the houses we were going to shoot in, just two days before we (found another one). It was barren, so they had to decorate it within 24 hours. (Resolving such dilemmas) kind of makes it fun for me, but it's awfully hard on the people I work with."

Had 'Staying Afloat' became the one-hour midseason weekly series, Larry Hagman was considering directing, "Directors get terrific residuals. You get $20,000 for rebroadcast on top of the $30,000 you get for doing it, and all you are is a traffic cop. I'm going to tell Carroll O'Connor (in 2 episodes of 'In the Heat of the Night') how to act? You know those dreams you have that are so vivid, you can almost direct them? That's when I do my creative stuff."

Up against the comedy series, 'Step By Step' starring Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers and the  Barbara Walters show '20/20', 'Staying Afloat' attracted 13.7 million viewers (9.5% households ratings and 17% audience share). Larry Hagman lamented, "When I came into the business, if the heads of the network liked an idea for a show, they'd say, 'Do 26 of them.' Those days are gone. These young bucks coming up with no experience, they're not committed to anything and nothing gets done."

Speaking to reporter Janis Froelich about the idea for the project 'Staying Afloat', Larry Hagman mentioned, "'Dallas' came on at a time (in 1979) when there was a very substantial recession, and people seemed to go for the money and the cars, and all the wonderful things that money can buy. And here we are, 15 years later (in 1993), back in the same situation. And I think people are ready for that. (However) I will not be wearing cowboy boots under my sailing togs. J.R is really the kind of guy who could run the oil business from the ground up, and he knew it backwards and forwards. And the character I'm playing now has no business and has never worked a day in his life."

On reflection, Larry Hagman told the 'Chicago Tribune', "I'm 62 now (in November 1993). I'm old enough to remember when 62 was old. I work now because it's fun. 'Staying Afloat' doesn't pay like 'Dallas' did. The character I play is the most important to me, followed by the location, and the money comes last. What do I need with more money, for God's sake?

"I have an apartment in New York, a ranch in Santa Fe (New Mexico), a castle in Ojai outside of L.A., a beach house in Malibu and thinking of buying a place in Santa Monica. I've been everywhere. I already do hunting and fishing. I fly. I ride my Harley. I like to dabble." In his 20th-floor apartment looking over Central Park and the Upper East Side, Larry Hagman told 'New York Newsday', "I could afford the best hotels in the world for the rest of my life for what this thing costs. The taxes are like $40,000 a year. But Mrs. Hagman wanted a pied a terre in New York."

Born in a $6,000 one bathroom house on an unpaved street in Dallas in 1923, Aaron Spelling had risen to become TV's most prolific producer in the Guinness Book of World Records. The youngest of 5 children of Pearl and David Spelling, Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants, Aaron Spelling had been responsible for 3,000 episodes or 4,220 hours of television over 5 decades which required 6 months to see back to back.

In reruns, it equated to 8,000 hours of domestic syndication and 18,000 hours internationally ('Beverly Hills, 90210' was shown in 90 countries; 'Melrose Place' in 80 countries). "We'd been thinking about doing a continuous drama set in high school for some time," Jamie Kellner of Fox recalled. "And we had this young writer, Darren Star, but our fear was that it would skew too young, so we brought in Aaron."

"Aaron really believes he's performing a service with his shows," one former colleague told the press, "that he is giving people an escape from the misery of their lives." As Aaron Spelling reminded, "We never know what entertainment does, how it affects people, but I bet if you went down the street and asked people - not in Beverly Hills - but ethnic groups, who can't afford to go to the theater, can't even afford HBO, 'What does television mean in your life?' you'd be shocked at the answer."

His wealth was estimated at $310 million in 1994. Sumner Redstone of Viacom declared, "To the rest of the world, he was the most prolific creator on TV for our times, and maybe for all times." Lee Gabler argued Aaron Spelling's shows "are more than entertainment. They have become part of the fabric of popular culture." The 'Los Angeles Times' noted, "He recognizes what the networks and studios have long known - that TV is software, able to generate streams of revenue far beyond a single night's airing."

Merrill Lynch media analyst, Jessica Reif observed, "Spelling is a cash cow." One former partner made the point, "Aaron loves to take credit for all his shows, but look at the credits. Not one of them says 'Created by Aaron Spelling.' But we aren't supposed to complain, because this is the man who made us all fabulously wealthy." After spending 18 years putting the network ABC on the map, Aaron Spelling turned his attention to Fox and WB in the 1990s.

Of those shows, TV analyst Betsy Frank of Zenith Media pointed out, "Spelling still has no real network penetration. He remains most successful developing programming for young, youth-oriented networks like Fox and the WB." Don Ohlmeyer of NBC expressed, "Drama is what Aaron does best, but dramas are tricky for networks today (in the 1990s) because they take time to find their audience. Fox has the luxury of being able to live with a 10 share, something that a major network can't."

In 1986, Aaron Spelling took Spelling Entertainment Group Inc. public. By 1996, "The truth is, the company has grown and grown. I have this stupid worry that shareholders bought stock because of me, people who pay my salary. But the stock price? That bothers the hell out of me." At the time, Aaron Spelling successfully renewed a 2-year contract with the new season's program orders totalling 400 hours, "That is more hours than in any year of our history."

Douglas Cramer acknowledged, "Aaron has a legendary instinct for what the public wants to see." Jamie Kellner of the WB Television Network added, "It's more than storytelling; there's a look that Aaron gets with his shows. It's the glamor, the fashion, the detail that audiences, especially women, love. What Aaron does really well is that whole wealthy-family thing."

As a holding company, 'The Los Angeles Times' reported Spelling Entertainment Group Inc. also had programming from Worldvision - the company's in-house distributorship once owned by ABC - as well as Republic Pictures, a vast library of pre-1974 NBC series as well as such films as 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'Basic Instinct'.

Ten years after 'Paper Dolls' went off the air in 1984, Aaron Spelling launched 'Models Inc.' in 1994. Up against 'Roseanne' and 'Dateline NBC', 'Models Inc.' attracted between 9 million and 11 million viewers each Wednesday night. Although such numbers were considered poor ratings in the US, 'Models Inc.' continued to sell in France as the series teetered on the brink of cancellation. John Ryan of Worldvision believed, "With Spelling, broadcasters know they are buying a brand name."

Linda Gray played Hillary Michaels, CEO/owner of the Los Angeles modeling agency, Models Inc. In casting Linda Gray, Aaron Spelling offered, "Every show must have a quarterback - like John Forsythe was on 'Dynasty' - and Linda is an immediate quarterback." It was understood Linda Gray brought "marquee value to the series and its network".

"I had no idea what to expect when fame came (in 1978 on 'Dallas')," Linda Gray confessed. "There wasn't a class you could take. And we were working so hard, being a celebrity didn't really take over. Nobody knows these kids (her co-stars) . . . yet. But they know me. I'm the one up for criticism. When I went to read for 'Models' . . . people who don't really know me that well were saying things like 'A new series - what are you doing? You know how much work that will be?' But I knew it must be my time to be out there again."

In playing Hillary, Linda suggested, "I'll say something about my character with just a look. When the kids on the set come up to me and ask 'What happens?' (if the show is a hit), I tell them, 'It's your own journey.'" E. Duke Vincent maintained, "Any television show starts with a concept, and if you don't have a story you don't have anything, but probably the most important thing in television is casting, and that's where he's king. Aaron has been the king of casting for the 28 years I have been working with him, and for the 15 years before he even knew me."

Michael Idato reported in 2005, "In more spritely days, Aaron Spelling was famous for wandering down the driveway of his 123-room estate on Mapleton Drive in the exclusive Los Angeles suburb of Bel Air to wave at the busloads of tourists who came to see what the media called 'the house that Dynasty built'." Aaron Spelling stated in 1994, "They're the fans, and they're the people that built that house. I know that sounds very corny, and I'm sorry, but I mean it." Producer Jonathan Levin concluded, "Those are the people he makes shows for and that lies at the heart of why he has well-constructed shows. He has asked himself what ordinary hard-working people want out of television. And he has come up with a formula that has worked for many, many decades."

20170916

OLYMPICS

At the Sporting d'Ete club in Monte Carlo, Monaco back in September 1993, the 88 voting members of the International Olympic Committee began casting secret ballots. 'The New York Times' reported, "Beijing (China) led after each of the first three rounds. In the first round, Istanbul (Turkey) with least votes was eliminated, then Berlin (Germany) and finally Manchester (England). In the end, Sydney (Australia) defeated Beijing by 45 to 43 votes in the fourth and final voting round to be the site of the millennium Games. 

"As a large multicultural city, Sydney already has many of the urban and sporting facilities needed to hold the 2000 Games. But a new Olympic village housing all athletes will be built, while all sporting venues will be within 30 minutes' travel time of the village. Of the 36 venues that will be needed, 20 already exist, although an 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium is among those that await construction." 

'Fairfax Media' reported at the time, "In Monte Carlo, champagne corks popped as hundreds of flag-waving Australians began celebrating the win. In Sydney, tens of thousands who had gathered at Circular Quay in the early hours to hear the announcement were joined by thousands more who streamed out of homes, hotels and clubs to form an enormous street party. 

"Sydney's Games, to run from September 16 to October 1, are certain to become known as the Millennium Games. They will be the biggest event in the city's history, attracting 15,000 athletes and officials from as many as 200 countries, an estimated 250,000 visitors, and a television audience comprising two-thirds of the world's population." In all, there were 10,651 athletes (4,069 women, 6,582 men) from 199 countries competing at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in 300 events (comprised of 36 different sports). The media totaled 16,033 (5,298 written press, 10,735 broadcasters). Volunteers totaled 46,967.  

Rod McGeoch who was the chief executive of the Sydney 2000 Olympic bid told 'Fox Sports' in 2015, "Sydney was the beginning of the critical role of government. Make governments have a separate budget and infrastructure budget and leave us just running the event. After that the Olympic movement said 'That's the way to do this. Let's not get caught paying for bloody stadiums which you use for 50 years. Let's not get caught paying for that out of a 16-day budget."

It was understood Greece's government made a loss of around $US14 billion for the Athens 2004 Games. Rod McGeoch told 'Fox Sports', "Athens didn't understand the temporary venue solutions and got forced by sport into building venues. You build a permanent taekwondo venue, beach volleyball venue and they're never used again. Every sport will try to get a permanent venue out of an Olympics and governments need to stand up to them and say 'You don't need that.'

"We spent $US20 million (on the Sydney bid) and won. Berlin against us spent $US75 million and got five votes out of 93. I am told on very good authority that for Tokyo 2020, Tokyo spent $US160 million on the bid. Istanbul spent $US55million (on its fifth bid in six Summer Olympics). As a result of that, there's suddenly a complete nervousness on the part of cities about bidding.

"If you add the cost of bidding and the cost of hosting the games, people are really starting to say 'now wait a minute.' There is an enormous amount of misunderstanding about how you manage to host a Games. I actually like advising governments, because they can be frightened out of, what I think for wealthy countries, is a perfectly achievable assignment."

At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, IBM was the primary IT supplier. Belinda Goldsmith of rediff.com was in Sydney back in August 2000 reported, "Sydney is being heralded as the first 'Internet Olympics' due to the explosion in Net use since 1996 with 275 million Internet users globally now (in 2000) compared to 40 million four years ago (in 1996). The Sydney Olympics is expected to be the biggest test yet for the Internet. It will show how the web copes when a worldwide audience plugs in at the same time and in many different languages."

'The Independent Online' reported in 2000, "To ensure results and other information is available instantly to millions of internet users around the world, IBM has established a global network of massive caching centers linked using sophisticated load-balancing technology. Designed to cope with an expected traffic level of around one billion page views, the infrastructure is larger than any previously used for a sporting event.

"Working alongside IBM for the past six years (1995-2000) has been Australia's national telecommunications company, Telstra. Telstra has established a complete communications infrastructure covering all Olympic sites, with high-capacity links to the outside world. Dubbed the Millennium Network, it comprises fixed, mobile and radio networks, as well as a series of high-speed fibre optic rings that circle Sydney, linking all 36 Olympic venues and a central control room.

"Telstra has installed a sophisticated monitoring system that will alert engineers to any problems on the entire network during the Games. Linked to a mapping application, the system can pinpoint cable breaks or malfunctioning equipment to within a few metres. The role of Telstra's network is particularly critical as it will carry all video and audio coverage to audiences around the globe.

"The company has also constructed what has become the densest mobile network anywhere on the planet, designed to cope with more than 600,000 extra users. In particularly busy areas, such as the Olympic Stadium and the central city area, a new technology will be used that allows multiple callers to share a single frequency channel. Also involved in designing and building the infrastructure for the Sydney Games have been other IT partners including Fuji Xerox, Samsung and Swatch.

"Despite it being the most wired games ever conducted, Fuji Xerox has been busy installing a printing infrastructure covering all sites. It is anticipated that during the 16 days of competition, more than 30 million pages will be printed. All content will be extracted from the IBM results system and fed to printers as required. Swiss watch company Swatch has installed timing equipment at each venue that feeds information directly into the IBM results computers. All systems have undergone rigorous testing and back-ups are in place to ensure reliability. Once the flame is extinguished on 1 October (2000), much of the infrastructure will be removed. The result of six years of toil will - it is hoped - have done its job."

With Sydney 9 hours ahead of London and 13 hours ahead of New York, the official Olympic website (www.olympics.com) reportedly attracted 7.2 billion visitors during the first 10 days of competition. In contrast, NBC's primetime coverage of the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games drew an average audience of 23.2 million viewers over 10 individual telecasts.

Craig Lowder of IBM believed the time difference between Sydney and Europe and the United States encouraged fans seeking news and real-time results to log on to the Internet rather than wait for delayed television broadcasts. According to IBM, one of the most popular features of the official website was the downloadable IBM Real-Time Scoreboards. Over 1.6 million scoreboards were downloaded and 58.3 million sports results requested.

Traffic to www.olympics.com for the 2000 Sydney Games eventually surpassed the number of hits received by previous Olympics websites powered by IBM. The 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan attracted 634 million hits from around the world and the 1996 Atlanta Games attracted 187 million hits. Paul Holmes also reported in 2001, "In addition, IBM’s FanMail website (ibm.com/fanmail) logged over 350,000 personal messages from fans in 200 countries to Olympic athletes competing in Sydney. The official Sydney Games website set several world records. During the Games, the site logged 11.3 billion total hits and attracted 8.7 million unique users. In one day, the site logged a record 683 million hits." 

On reflection in 2008, Glyn Moody told Olympics fans, "In 1996 the World Wide Web was truly in its very early stages. The Olympics took place less than a year after Netscape went public, which many consider the key event marking the transition of the Internet from a research network used primarily by the technical community to the commercial behemoth that it went on to become. The new World Wide Web had the feeling of magic, but, in 1996, it was pretty primitive magic. 

"To begin with, the vast majority of people accessing the Web at the time were doing so over slow dial-up modems with bandwidths of 56 kilobits per second or less. Only at work, if you were lucky, did you have access to faster broadband speeds. It wasn't until years later that broadband usage in the home became commonplace. As we were planning the IT infrastructure for the Olympics website, hardware was not an issue. 

"But the software for web servers was quite immature. Netscape's web software was the most widely used in those days, and while it was adequate for small workloads, its scalability was suspect. We could not use it. Instead, we used the open source Apache Server as the basic web server, and custom built the extensions needed to support its content, applications and other capabilities. 

"We were pretty sure that the Atlanta Olympics website was the largest such web project anyone had undertaken so far. Because it was all so new, we did not know how many people would come to our website and what features they would use once they got there. We were well aware of the considerable risks inherent in doing such a complex, new project on such a global stage. 

"We knew, for example, that beyond a certain number of users, the response time would start to degrade, and if sufficiently stressed beyond its capabilities, the system could become unstable and crash. Our Olympics website worked quite well, except for some unduly slow response times when traffic got very heavy. Overall, the site handled 187 million hits – that is, individual pieces of information served to users. We learned a lot about the requirements for building and operating large, complex websites. All in all, it was a very successful experiment."

20170915

OLYMPICS

Sports science and high-tech Internet revolutionized the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, changing the way people viewed the Olympics and the way the Games were run. For the 2 million spectators and an estimated 3 billion viewers around the world, 'The Christian Science Monitor' reported, "The Internet served as their virtual ticket and data base with up-to-the-minute results as well as background, context, and color."

'Popular Mechanics' reported, "Perhaps most groundbreaking for those Atlanta Games, which marked the 100th anniversary of the Olympics' modern inception, was the advent of the Internet." In April 1995, www.atlanta.olympic.org went online, built by IBM which was one of the sponsors of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Available to some 150,000 on-site users, the website, "the most accessible and efficient Olympic Games in history" provided live start lists during the Games, as well as results medal standings, still images from the field of play at competition venues, access to Info '96 databases for information on competition rules, athlete profiles, photos, team information, news, and history.

'Popular Mechanics' continued, "Before the Games, the website would be used primarily for ticket sales." Scott Anderson of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games informed buyers in 1995, "Tickets are plentiful (11 million to be issued), affordable and easy to buy. Customers can browse through the (48-page) brochure and (542) session schedule in the comfort of their own home. There are no lines to wait in and no impossible deadlines to meet. Just send us (the mail-order forms) your selections in the first 60 days (from May 1, 1995) to have the best chance of getting the tickets you want most."

'The Los Angeles Times' learnt, "Buyers will be limited to 16 tickets for 'preferred' sessions - those events spectators most want to see - and are encouraged to list two alternate sessions for every preferred session. There is a limit of four tickets an order for high-demand events, and a limit of two tickets an order for opening and closing ceremonies. Payment is required at the time of ordering, by check or Visa card. Opening and closing ceremonies cost $200, $400, and $600. Prices to athletic events range from $6 to $250. All ticket prices in the brochure include sales tax. There is a $1 fee for each preferred ticket requested, and a $15 processing fee for the total order."

'Popular Mechanics' continued, "IBM, which produced the official website, used a touchscreen-based, no-mouse, no-keyboard system, altered to look like an onscreen notebook, to put up-to-the-minute stats in the hands of television announcers and Web engineers. More expansive than that Commentator Information System, though, was Info '96, an exhaustive information network accessible only by athletes, coaches, staff and VIPs. Not only did it post results for all Olympic events, but it also included bios and addresses for all the athletes, an email system and a searchable directory."

'The New York Times' reported in 1996, "IBM had invested $80 million to be a worldwide Olympic sponsor and the lead 'technology integrator' of this year's Games. IBM also has agreements with the International Olympic Committee to be the lead technology sponsor for the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia."

The most talked-about "Info 96" was the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games' internal information system. Of the initial false start, Jeff Cross of IBM reminded at the time, "This is the largest sporting event in the world - equivalent to a NASA space shot or two Super Bowls a day for 17 days. There are some legitimate start-up problems that people are working 24 hours a day to address."

From the outset, the chairman of IBM, Louis V. Gerstner Jr., had told shareholders in April 1996, "Half the world's population will be watching. We both have a lot on the line. It's a chance for your city (Atlanta) and our company (IBM) to show their very best on a world stage. I don't need to tell you there's an element of risk in stepping onto that stage."

Roger McNamee of Integral Capital Partners added, "It's an amazingly ambitious goal to provide all of this information in real time to the whole world. That said, dropping your shorts in front of the entire world is significantly more embarassing than doing it privately." IBM, as understood, spent some $20 million to $30 million in advertising to promote "Lotus Notes as a solution for system integration and integration with the World Wide Web" or "Lotus Notes' abilities to interface with the outside world." 'The Christian Science Monitor' understood at the time http://www.atlanta.olympic.org was expecting around 250,000 virtual visitors per day once the 1996 Centennial Games commenced.

"Sport plays one of the most significant roles in everyday life of people around the world," 'The Sport Journal' noted in 2005. "Today, sport has not only become great entertainment, occupation and lifestyle, but solid business as well. Nowadays, Olympic Games have become one of the most large-scale and profitable global media events. NBC paid the sum of $3.5 billion to receive the right to transmit 5 Olympic Games for the period of 2000-2008.

"The Olympic Games is the global arena for the best athletes in the world and a venue for unity and cooperation of people around the globe. Today's Olympics is one of the most popular and most watched events in the world. At 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Coca Cola was the second leading advertiser having spent $29,875,000 on promotion of its drinks. At 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Coca Cola spent $73,645,900 on promotion, becoming the leading advertiser of the Games and making Olympics its biggest and most important event in promotional company."

Dr Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee pointed out, "Without the support of the business community, without its technology, expertise, people, services, products, telecommunications, its financing – the Olympic Games could not and cannot happen. Without this support, the athletes cannot compete and achieve their very best in the world's best sporting event."

"We like to think of people in front of their TVs with a laptop on their lap," Maria Battaglia of IBM told the press in 1996. The media presence at the 1996 event totaled 15,108 (5,695 written press, 9,413 broadcasters). There were 10,318 athletes (3,512 women, 6,806 men) from 197 countries competing in 271 events (comprised 37 sports disciplines being hosted at 31 venues). Volunteers totaled 47,466. 

20170913

OLYMPICS

The ancient Olympics, as understood, were held every 4 years, during a religious festival honoring the Greek god Zeus. The Games were banned after 393AD by Roman Emperor Theodosius I. to suppress paganism in the Roman Empire. Some 1,500 years later, French baron, Pierre de Coubertin fought to resurrect the Games, arguing the nation’s lack of physical education for the masses led to his nation defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 spearheaded by Otto von Bismarck. 

The first modern Olympics was held in Athens in 1896. Following the fall of Constantinople (present day Istanbul) in 1453, Greece was under the control of the Ottoman Empire led by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. It was explained, "The Ottoman state was a theocracy and its political system was based on hierarchy with the Sultan at the top, having absolute divine rights." It wasn't until 1829, Greece was recognized as an independent state after the Greek Revolution of 1821 (also known as War of Independence) which brought 400 years of Ottoman occupation to an end. 

The assassination of Kapodistrias in Nafplion was said to have paved the way for Bavarian Prince Otto to become King of Greece - until 1862, when he was reportedly "exiled for ignoring the Greek Constitution. The next king was Danish, King George I who ruled the country for 50 years and brought stability and a new Constitution which specified the monarchic powers." 

Sonia O’Sullivan of 'The Irish Times' told readers in 2016, "Atlanta – the mere mention of it stirs up some strange memories for me. It was a time in my life when nothing went to plan, and it's hard even thinking back because so many of the details are still fuzzy, or else erased from my mind completely. I had to park so much of what happened in Atlanta because that was my way of moving on, not that I didn't learn a lot from that time. It was a slow process, but I eventually accepted it, locked up so many of those memories, and then threw away the key."

"Twenty summers ago," Kabir Sehgal told 'Fortune' readers in 2016, "my sister and I had the experience of a lifetime. We ran the Olympic torch in Atlanta, Georgia, she passing it to me on July 18, the day before the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Because my family was involved in helping the city win the bid to host the games, not only were we afforded this unique opportunity but got to see the inner-workings of how the games were organized.

"While these games were formative for me as a young person, they were also transformational for Atlanta … Indeed, Atlanta’s Olympics were mostly privately funded, profitable, and made a positive and lasting economic impact. Atlanta’s 1996 games had local buy-in from the beginning. That’s because the dream to host the games didn’t originate from a government official but private citizen, real estate lawyer Billy Payne, in 1987.

"He went around the city, drumming up support for the games, eventually enlisting the help of then-mayor Andrew Young. Atlanta’s bid for the games cost $7.3 million, which was the least among all but one of the finalist cities like Athens and Melbourne, and most of the funds came from corporations and private citizens … As a matter of civic pride, local companies added a section to their bills so that customers could 'opt in' to fund the city’s Olympic bid.

"Because it was a locally-inspired and led initiative, Atlantans took pride and arguably helped win the games with their 'y'all come back now' Southern hospitality … When Atlanta won the bid in 1990 to host the Olympics, I was in elementary school, and my teacher had turned on 'ABC News' with Peter Jennings, who was delivering the news. 'We won', exclaimed my teacher and classmates, as we jumped in the air. People outside started to honk their horns outside with glee.

"Because the bid was privately conceived and funded, the games were never perceived as a 'top down' idea of policy makers, but a 'bottom up' grassroots movement. 'The real legacy of the games is that the people of Atlanta felt for themselves the legacy of possibility. We can do anything we set our minds to,' Payne said following the games … Atlanta’s 1996 games cost about $1.7 billion.

"While government funds were used for infrastructure improvements, much of the capital came from the private sector: Corporate sponsorships added more than $540 million to the coffers; ticket revenue generated more than $420 million; and television rights were sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, Centennial Olympic Park, which replaced a downtrodden area, has become a crown jewel of Atlanta, and it was funded with $75 million in private donations.

"The games also resulted in a $10 million profit. Even though there wasn’t a material uptick in economic activity during the games, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce assessed that the Olympics generated $5.14 billion of impact. And the games were an amazing branding initiative, as billions around the world watched the games. Before the games, people confused Atlanta with Atlantic City. Not anymore."

Back in 2012, Maria Michta described village life to followers as she experienced during the 2012 Summer Games, "Olympic Village is much more of a laid back, subdued college campus kind of feel where the dress code is athletic casual and everyone has enormous 'school' pride … Once inside you can view the athlete living quarters, walk around, perhaps be lucky to catch a glimpse of someone famous and of course take a tourist picture under the giant Olympic rings.

"If you were planning on eating in the dining hall be ready to shell out 20 pounds for the largest cafeteria style buffet you will ever witness. The McDonalds in the Village is free all day all the time to the athletes. Other than that its a place to call home for about 2 weeks, a place to come back to after training sessions, a places to gab with one another between events while watching on TV fellow teammates and countrymen compete, it’s a place to 'relax' while nervously contemplating one's upcoming performance.

"In addition to eating, the cafeteria serves as a social gathering where if one chooses you can meet with other teammates, countrymen, or anyone from any team from any country. The easiest way to start a congo (conversation) is by swapping pins. Almost every country gives their athletes pins that represent their country and or event at the Games.

"The purpose is to trade one's pins with other athletes from all over the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed the pin swapping aspect and have pins from about 26 different countries! I also have a few from other USA Teams such as gymnastics! Pins are a big thing here at the Olympic Games and it's not just athletes in the Village but spectators and staff workers too that get in on the pin trading action. Also various IOC Olympic Games Partners and Sponsors give out their pins to the athletes and spectators alike.

"Aside from sleeping, eating, and trading pins there is not much else to do in the Village. Then there is an athlete lounge that has some more TVs, couches, computers and even pool tables. They also have a life size jenga and other games that athletes can play. At the Powerade Bar you can get free drinks (that is Powerade or water). Oops I almost forgot one more thing you can do here in the Village: Laundry! Well actually the athletes themselves don’t have to actually do the wash, nope they spoil us and do it for us, for free! I have already had three loads of my stuff washed here. They wash and dry it automatically which means some of the nice athletic gear I got will have to wait to go home to wash, can’t go ruining my new clothes in the dryer!

"The exciting stuff is really what’s unfolding around the park at the venues. It’s the goals scored, the points earned, the landings stuck, the jumps cleared, it’s the save made or the one that got by, the head to head battles, the behind the scenes smiles, waves, and tears, it’s the anthems played, the medals hung, the flags raised, those are the moments that make the Olympics, that’s where all the real action, excitement, and drama is!"

20170912

OLYMPICS

On September 16, 1990, the International Olympic Committee met in Tokyo, Japan to vote for the site to host the 1996 Summer Olympics - the centennial games of the modern Olympic era. Six cities were competing: Atlanta (USA), Melbourne (Australia), Toronto (Canada), Belgrade (the former Yugoslavia), Manchester (England) and Athens (Greece). Athens was a sentimental favorite being the birthplace of the modern Games and the first city to host the modern Olympics back in 1896.

As understood, a city must receive a majority - 44 of 86 votes - in the balloting to win their bid. It was clarified if no candidate received that much support, the city gaining the fewest votes would be eliminated and the ballots recast. The process would continue until 2 candidates remained or a majority had been achieved. The winner therefore, it was said, may have to survive 5 rounds of voting.

Athens and Atlanta finished first and second on most of the ballots. Belgrade was eliminated on the first ballot, followed by Manchester on the second, Melbourne on the third, and Toronto on the fourth. On the fifth and final ballot by the IOC, Atlanta received 51 votes to 35 for Athens. It was mentioned many of Toronto's votes went to Atlanta, resulting in the victory margin.

'The Washington Post' learnt, "Geography was another problem for Athens, because the 1992 Games (summer in Barcelona, winter in Albertville, France) and the 1994 Winter Games (Lillehammer, Norway) will be held in Europe." Atlanta was "supported by a unified, broad-based coalition of business, political and civil rights leaders", reportedly spent $7.3 million on a 2-year campaign that made it only the third US city to host the Summer Olympics. St. Louis first hosted in 1904 and Los Angeles (1932, 1984). Athens spent $25 million on its bid, said to be more than any of the other cities. "Only Belgrade, with a budget of less than $1 million, spent less than Atlanta's $7.3 million," 'The Los Angeles Times' noted.

The $1.6 billion Centennial Olympic Games held in the "Cinderella city" of the New South in 1996 was "the most important event in the history of Atlanta, Georgia" and "the largest and most important event of the 20th century," Billy Payne, the chief organizer, stated. On September 18, 1990, Juan Antonio Samaranch announced, "The International Olympic Committee has awarded the 1996 Olympic Games to the city of…Atlanta." IOC vice president Richard Pound of Montreal told the press, "We got to the point where we had to decide, in the centennial year, whether we were going to look back or look forward. We decided that what we were really doing in 1996 was launching our second century."

From the outset, the Centennial Olympic Games would be privately financed by the Atlanta organizing committee. As understood, "The money comes from broadcast rights, corporate sponsorships, ticket sales and merchandising." Billy Payne spoke to 'Sports Illustrated' at the time, "It has now been nearly nine years (dating back to February 8, 1987) since I first had that which is still described as the crazy idea. Nine years since I came to believe that the United States could do great justice and great service to the Olympic movement at this most important time in its history, the only movement in the world that brings people together for a common and singular purpose under a common set of rules." 

'Sports Illustrated' reported, "Because officials at every level of government had made it clear that an Atlanta-based Olympics would be staged without government underwriting, Payne claimed that he would raise the estimated $1.6 billion the city would need through the support of corporations and other private-sector sources." Six years before "the curtain goes up and Atlanta steps upon the international stage," 'The New York Times' reported, "Twenty sponsors paid up to $40 million apiece to become Olympic 'partners'.

"NBC wrote the largest corporate check, paying $456 million for American television rights. McDonald's is one of eight corporations that has anted up at least $40 million for a 'partners' sponsorship. McDonald's has also struck a deal with NBC, which will televise the 1996 Summer Games, to be the sole restaurant advertiser on Olympic telecasts."

The $1.6 billion were spent on construction projects, from Olympic venues such as the Centennial Olympic Park, 3 Concourse E at the Atlanta airport international (at a cost of $305 million), 4 Centennial Olympic Stadium (including the 85,000-seat Olympic stadium), 5 Georgia International Horse Park, 6 Clayton County International Park, 7 Olympic Aquatic Center, 8 Stone Mountain Tennis Center (at a cost of $22 million) to the 2 Olympic Village (at a cost of $200 million) housing the 10,318 athletes from 197 countries, 5,000 coaches and officials, 15,000 journalists and 2 million spectators. Harvey Newman told Associated Press in 2011 the 1996 Centennial Olympics had "certainly put Atlanta on the map as a place to be taken seriously among cities throughout the world."

Aramark Corporation was contracted to supply food created "550 ethnically diverse nutritional recipes for the menu." It was reported "there was an official dining hall - a 75,000 square-foot tent with a 3,500 seat capacity. For athletes from the 197 countries who could not eat in the Dining Hall, special Olympic Lunch Boxes would be provided and transported to competition sites in refrigerated trucks. Approximately 50,000 box lunches were prepared."

By September 1994, McDonald's disclosed it would "operate six of its fast-food restaurants at the Olympic Village during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, serving 7,500 nutritional meals a day during the Games and feeding 15,000 athletes, coaches and officials. World-class athletes generally subscribe to a diet low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates, featuring fruits, vegetables, pasta, whole grains, fish and chicken. For those who want to skip fast food, a cafeteria-style restaurant service will provide the bulk of food to Olympians, Atlanta officials said."

Chris Campbell, a freestyle wrestler who won a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics told 'The New York Times', "If McDonald's doesn't help out the Olympic movement, we don't get to compete at the level we need to. We're not like most countries, where the government pays for its athletes. Our government doesn't pay a dime. It's got to come from the commercial standpoint."

'The Los Angeles Times' reported in 2002, "Three times since the 1980s - Summer Games at Los Angeles in 1984 and Atlanta in 1996, and Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002 - the US has played host to the Olympics. Each time the organizing committee has finished in the black. The L.A. Games registered a $232.5-million surplus. Forty percent of that money went to the Amateur Athletic Foundation, which has since given out millions in grants to youth and community sports activities.

"The 1996 Atlanta Olympics ended with a slight surplus, about $10 million. Atlanta's legacy, however, includes a stadium built for the Games and then reconfigured afterward for baseball, both at organizing committee expense. The 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City generated a whopping $56-million overall surplus, testament to first-rate organizational and logistical plans and a vivid reminder of the financial possibilities inherent in staging the Games in the United States. The net surplus, $40 million, will be divided two ways. Most of the money, $30 million, will go to the nonprofit Utah Athletic Foundation, which oversees facilities built for the Salt Lake Games. The rest, $10 million, goes to the US Olympic Committee."

The 1976 Montreal Games went into public debt of $1 billion. Unlike L.A., which used existing facilities and accumulated a surplus of $232.5 million, Atlanta had to construct 10 new competition venues and refurbish several others. Dick Pound believed, "Revenues should pay for the party, not the banquet hall." Donald Katz reported before the start of the 1996 Games, "The business side of the Summer Olympics has changed mightily since 1976, when the Montreal organizing committee garnered revenues from sponsors and licensed suppliers totaling only $7 million. The organization (for the 1996 Games) is still short of the recently revised $1.6 billion required to meet projected costs, but that deficit is slated to disappear with the continued sale of 11 million tickets and other items.

"As soon as Payne's marketers began pitching costly Olympic associations in corner offices around the world, a global business recession set in. But Payne's troops talked 30 billion-dollar corporations into lending executives and technicians to ACOG or donating goods and/or ponying up between $10 million and $60 million apiece to be domestic Olympic 'partners' and 'sponsors'. A total of 125 companies signed up to be product licensees. By the time the Games begin next July 19, more than 70,000 full-time employees and volunteers (more than three times the size of the workforce at Delta Airlines, the largest private employer in Georgia) will be working for ACOG and Payne."

Maureen Feighan told 'The Detroit News' readers in August 2016, "Nearly 20 years ago to the day, I worked in the main dining hall at Olympic Village during the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. Call it destiny or good luck, a friend had a brother who worked for Aramark, the food service provider at the '96 Olympics. They were looking for college students to work in the main dining hall.

"I was one of thousands hired to serve food in Atlanta. My job: serve up cafeteria-style food to the best athletes from across the world. I've always been a huge fan of the Olympics, but to see athletes up close and personal was something else entirely. I marveled at the tiny gymnasts from China and the bulky wrestlers from Russia. Surprisingly, hot dogs were hugely popular in 1996.

"We served up more hot dogs – without buns – than any other food. And while most of the big name athletes didn't eat in the main dining hall, a few did. Dishing up dinner for tennis star Monica Seles, it took all the self-control I had to not set down my serving spoon and ask for an autograph. I never saw an Olympic medal up close during my time in Atlanta, but I saw something else that was golden: McDonald's golden arches.

"McDonald's, a longtime Olympic sponsor, had set up shop in one corner of the main dining hall so athletes could get their fix of McNuggets, fries or Quarter Pounders at any meal. McDonald's bridged cultural divides in a way I’ve never seen before. It brought together athletes from different sports, ethnicities and cultures. It was a reminder that we're all more alike than we are different. And it made these superhumans seem so much more real."

Professor Zhao Jinlin told Florida International University in 2014, "When I heard Atlanta was going to host the 1996 Olympics my reaction immediately was one day in the future China is going to host the Olympics. As a strategy, I have to squeeze in there and learn. Maybe one day my motherland will ask, ‘does anyone know anything about this?’ And I will be able to say I can help."

20170910

TENNIS

A record-breaking 79 countries won medals at the Centennial Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996. Some 53 countries won gold medals. Bill Clinton opened the summer Games. In tennis, there were 64 players each in men's and women's singles (total 6 rounds of competition); 32 teams each in men's and women's doubles (5 rounds of competition) and 16 teams in mixed doubles (4 rounds of competition). 

Stone Mountain Tennis Center, located 16 miles east of downtown Atlanta, comprised some 15 courts with the stadium court contained 12,000 seats hosted the event. The men's final was played in 102 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity. David Haggerty of the International Tennis Federation told Associated Press in 2016, "If you look at what's happened from '88 to now, our sport has really become even more international because of the Olympic movement." 

Tennis coach Jay Berger added, "When it first starts, people don't know what to expect. And I think golf is having this a little bit, in its infancy. They don't know what the meaning is going to be. But you look at the draw for the tennis, the very top players want to play. I've seen those top players cry for joy at having won a bronze medal. And I've seen players cry because they lost a medal. When you get down to it, the Olympics kind of transfer to any sport, really." 

The 1996 Olympic Games used a computerized draw for tennis. 'Associated Press' reported, "The US Tennis Association selected players for singles based on computer rankings of April 29 (1996). Jennifer Capriati (ranked 109 at the time) and Mary Joe Fernandez (ranked 14 at the time) both won gold medals in 1992 were left off the Olympic list, eliminated from the Olympics by a computer. The USTA failed in its bid to get Capriati an exemption so she could defend her medal as an extra American entry. Monica Seles, who became an American citizen in 1994, made the squad." 

'The New York Times' reported, "Billie Jean King, the women's coach, said she wanted wild-card invitations for two gold medalists from 1992 - Jennifer Capriati (singles) and Mary Joe Fernandez (doubles) - but the International Tennis Federation said no. Nations will be limited to three players in each singles draw and one team in each doubles draw." However Mary Jo Fernandez was eventually "added to play doubles after pressure from American tennis officials. It wasn't until Chanda Rubin withdrew with a wrist injury that Fernandez slipped into singles competition as a last-minute singles replacement." 

It was reported, "From the 2004 Athens Olympics till the 2012 London Olympics, results from the Olympics was counted towards both the ATP and WTA world rankings for that calendar year. However, no points will be awarded for the 2016 Rio Olympics." Andre Agassi spoke to ASAP Sports in July 1996, "Well, you know, I mean, really, I think any athlete feels like you want to beat anybody to win this tournament. 

"And if you get a bad draw, good draw, you don't feel good about it one way or another unless you go out there and win the match. So to me, it is - winning the match is most important here. But I do feel like, you know, they have taken extra care to make sure that no Americans are playing each other in the quarterfinals or none of the same countries, as far as the seeds go. They made some adjustments there in the draw, which I think is appropriate. It is kind of tough to play a medal match with a guy from your own country - if you lose, you don't get one. So I have no problem with it. I mean, it's tough first rounds, certainly, against Jonas (Bjorkman) today (7-6, 7-6)." 

Monica Seles defeated Gabriela Sabatini in the 3rd round but fell to Jana Novotna in the quarterfinals. "You know, it was tense, exciting out there," Jana Novotna told the press. "When I got to 5-5 in the third, I was walking around back there (behind the baseline) and the crowd was yelling 'USA, USA' so loud. I was getting goose bumps, like I was watching it on TV and then I realize . . . I am playing her. It's me out there! So, I have to get back into the match."

Jana Novotna and Mary Joe Fernandez played "to decide the bronze medalist in singles, an award, that in previous years was earned by both losing semifinalists." Jana Novotna made the comment, ''A pity, isn't it, to work this hard and still have to play again for a bronze but actually it's the way it should be.'' Of her 7-5, 3-6, 8-6 win against Monica Seles, Jana Novotna believed, "It was huge; it was good tennis.

"I would say that in general for tennis players the Grand Slams are the most important ones. But of course there's something special in another way because on this occasion you don't represent only yourself but you represent your country, as well. And you have to realize that I was playing against everybody today ... It feels like a Fed Cup, that you are playing against a home team and a regular tournament you get more supporters on your side but I was coming into this match with this attitude knowing that everybody will be probably for Monica or everybody will be pretty loud or even there may be some close calls but, you know, I had no problem with it at all."

Interviewer: Did you consider to stay in the Olympic Village?

Andre Agassi: Well, certainly, in preparing for the tournament you have to make those decisions. And being a tennis player, traveling your whole life as an individual and doing things the way I wanted, I felt my main duty was to give myself the best shot to win. And I didn't want to stick myself in an arena that I may end up not being used to or comfortable with, so I chose not to. I chose to prepare myself the way I do all the events all year round, 52 weeks a year for the last ten years (since 1986).

Interviewer: Do you feel you are missing anything not being in the village?

Andre Agassi: Yeah, I think there is a part of it that you don't get to experience that would be probably quite enjoyable, you know, but I don't know, I feel my biggest responsibilities here is to do everything I can to win a medal. And you got to make decisions that, unfortunately, at times are uneducated, and I don't know what it is like. I don't know how I would respond to being far away from the venue. I am a lot closer out here, and it is really, really just the choice that I made.

In the women's singles, Lindsay Davenport defeated Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1 hour and 35 minutes to win the Olympic gold medal. 'The Los Angeles Times' noted, "Once the gold medal was hers, Davenport couldn't take her fingers off it - stopping just short of biting the glittering prize to make certain it was real." Lindsay Davenport told the press, "There was a long time where I didn't think I was going to make this (US Olympic) team because we had so many highly ranked players ahead of me."

By 1996, a roll call of Olympic tennis champions since the sport regained its full medal status included Lindsay Davenport and Andre Agassi. Speaking to 'ESPN' in 2016, Andre Agassi stated, "Olympics is in its own category. How somebody perceives the challenge or importance of the Olympics is kind of their business. I just look at that medal and say, 'I wish every person in the history of our game who was great at what he did had one.' It has this power. That's why some athletes who have one carry it around with them. Because so many people just want to see it. Some display it. Others hide it or put it in a safety deposit box so it can't get lost or stolen."

20170909

TENNIS

Some 10,318 athletes representing 197 nations in 26 sports including tennis were competing at the $1.6 billion Centennial Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996. About 3.5 billion TV viewers, "more than half the world's population", were said to be watching the 16 days of competition. It was, as Juan Antonio Samaranch stated, "The Games of unity have indeed been most exceptional games. Well done, Atlanta." 

Around 11,000 tennis fans got their money's worth watching Andre Agassi took 77 minutes to win the Olympic gold medal on stadium court at Stone Mountain Park. Sergi Bruguera of Spain won silver. 'The New York Times' reported, "The last American man to win Olympic gold in singles was Vincent Richards in 1924, the year tennis began a 64-year hiatus from the Games." 

'The Washington Post' added, "Tennis in the Olympics dates back to the first modern Olympics in 1896 in Athens, Greece. Tennis was a fixture on the program through the 1924 Games in Paris. The International Tennis Federation - the international governing body for tennis - and the International Olympic Committee saw differences on the definition of amateurism, which led to the exclusion of tennis from the Olympic Games as an official medal sport until 1988 in Seoul, South Korea." 

Andre Agassi told the press, "To win a Grand Slam in the sport of tennis is the greatest accomplishment inside the sport. To win an Olympic gold medal is the greatest thing you can accomplish in any sport. There are a lot of reasons on their own why the Olympics are so special but to be a second generation competitor is really special." 

Tony Nimmons who had worked as an umpire at the US Open told Nicholas Walz in 2011, "Tennis, to me, challenged my notion of sports. It’s a thinking sport above all – and to improve as an official or player strengthens the mind but also the body. Right now, we’re trying to recruit officials but there’s no formula for finding them. In my case, I enjoyed playing so much and saw another avenue in which to challenge myself. I love that no two matches are the same, and that there’s the opportunity to learn something new if you open yourself up to the possibility." 

In January 2017, Andre Agassi arrived at the Grand Hyatt hotel in south Mumbai to attend the unveiling of the rebranding of private equity firm India Value Fund Advisors Pvt. Ltd to True North. In a conversation with Harsha Bhogle, Andre Agassi paid tribute to Roger Federer, "I cannot believe how easy he (Roger Federer) makes it look. It almost pisses me off that he just makes it look so easy.

"It's a great generation of tennis. One that takes decades and makes it into one generation that everybody should be grateful to be able to watch. You’re looking at arguably the greatest ever because of what he could do on every surface. He could beat the best from the back of the court. He had Plan A, B, C, D. And he never usually got to Plan C or D. Occasionally he’d go to Plan B. So this is just somebody incredibly special.

"But he’s also dealing with two other guys that you can argue are at the top of the history of our sport, with (Novak) Djokovic and (Rafael) Nadal. The game's changed so much. When people ask old champions whether they would match up (to modern times), you don’t. When you look at the change, for example, the way the ball spins now, it changes the rules of engagement, changes how you approach the game."

Andre Agassi also told audience, "My father was a visionary, if you want to be kind to him. When I was six-months old, in his head, I was already playing tennis. He would put a balloon over my head and tie a ping-pong racket on my hand. As I tried desperately to remove the racket, he visualized me playing and said I would become a great player. I have a video of playing as a four-year-old. Our family didn’t have much and my father would bet on me in Vegas. But looking back, I am grateful for my father’s sacrifices."

However at one time, "I hated what I did (tennis). I saw what it did to our family dynamics. Dad had rules: Wake up, play and then brush teeth, in that order. As a child, I was moved 3,000 miles away into a tennis academy, living and playing with other kids. We raised each other, kind of like Lord of the Flies with forehands and backhands. Fear is a great motivator and making it (a success) was my only escape. I took rebellion to the world stage.

"The angst and the conflict started early. There were so many feelings tied to survival and not having a choice. I thought winning and reaching No. 1 would bring peace. I turned No. 1 (in 1995) and it changed nothing. When I turned No. 1, it started a downward spiral - I got into a marriage I didn’t want (with actress Brooke Shields), doing drugs… It took 25 years to reach No. 1 and less than two years to get (down) to No. 141.

"I lost in Germany in the first round and my coach locked me up in the room. The decision was either we quit or we start over. I never hated tennis as much as that moment. Looking out of the window, I wondered how many people chose their life, and I had an epiphany - nobody does. It gave me an opportunity to change my life. I saw a program on (TV) '60 Minutes', on kids having no choice in their life and there was a connection. I wanted to build my own school and overnight committed to a $40 million mortgage.

"This was my connection back to playing a sport I didn’t love. People talk about love-hate; mine was hate-love. Tennis gave me a life, my wife and I was grateful to play longer than my body allowed. An athlete spends one-third of his life not preparing for two-thirds of his life. Failure and success are an illusion. Failure is an interpretation of an event. You have that in sport. What matters is how you engage with life. It’s full of beautiful moments and difficult times but these are all train stops. You get off and on but stay on the right train. Dad chose for me the highest bar that I could reach. A lot of good comes from asking for the best from yourself."

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