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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Dec. 1, 1995)
ju st o ut T
1. 1005 T 9
Problems with your dream house?
The Olympics' gay
N ext year's gam es will take place in A tlanta's gayest
neighborhood , and plan s are underway to welcom e the world
by Richard Shumate
ext summer’s Olympic Games in
Atlanta will mark a queerly different
These are believed to be the first
modem Olympics where the village
that will house the athletes, along with many of
the venues where they will compete, will be
located in a predominantly gay neighborhood.
And— despite a festering dispute between Olym
pic organizers and activists over the role Cobb
County will play in the city’s Olympic odyssey—
Atlanta’s Midtown community is making plans to
welcome the world.
The centerpiece of that effort will be a 24-hour
gay and lesbian visitors’ center, located within
walking distance of most Olympic events, that
will provide information and assistance to ath
letes and visitors. Mayor Bill Campbell’s gay and
lesbian advisory committee is currently drawing
up plans for the center and trying to bring the
city ’ s pride committee and other organizations on
board to help fund and staff it.
“We don’t want to be wallflowers at the big
putting together the visitors’ center, McDonald
says ACOG turned down a request to fund it. So
corporate donors will be sought to pay for the
center, and the advisory committee is trying to get
a landlord to donate space by pointing out that the
center will be an attraction likely to draw large
numbers of people to other businesses on the
While the city’s lesbian and gay community
will be having the Olympics in its back yard, its
relationship with ACOG has been rocky for the
past two years, ever since ACOG announced that
preliminary volleyball competition would be held
in Cobb County. In August 1993, county commis
sioners in Cobb, a suburban enclave of 450,000
people just northwest of the city, passed a resolu
tion stating that the “gay lifestyle” was incompat
ible with Cobb’s community standards. Despite
two years of continued protest, they have refused
to rescind the resolution.
Faced with threats of a massive protest in
1996, ACOG eventually removed the volleyball
venue from Cobb, and the Olympics Out of Cobb
A 24-hour gay and lesbian visitors
center located within walking distance
o f most Olympic events will provide
information and assistance to athletes
and visitors. Atlanta Mayor Bill
Campbell ’s gay and lesbian advisory
committee is currently drawing up
plans fo r the center.
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dance. We want to participate,” says Phil
McDonald, the city official who facilitates the
committee. A site hasn’t been selected yet, “but
we feel it is important to be close enough to the
village that the athletes who are here will be able
to walk to the center,” says McDonald.
The Olympic Village is being constructed on
the Georgia Tech campus, which is just west of
Midtown, the city’s most identifiable gay neigh
borhood. Atlanta’s largest cluster of gay bars is
but a quarter mile from the village, and a number
o f venues, including the swimming and diving
stadium, are also at Tech.
And while that provides the opportunity for
extraordinary visibility for the gay and lesbian
community during the 16-day run of the games, it
will also create some problems for Midtown resi
dents who are living with AIDS. The city plans to
block off many Midtown streets for 16 hours each
day, making it almost impossible to access the
neighborhood except on foot. Project Open Hand,
which delivers meals to people with AIDS who
are shut in, may face interruption of its normal
delivery routes. Also, Grady Memorial Hospital’s
Infectious Disease Clinic, the primary medical
provider for indigent HIV patients, is located in
the area that will be cordoned off.
City and Fulton County health officials are
currently working with the Atlanta Committee for
the Olympic Games to develop a plan to continue
services to people during the games. No final plan
has been announced.
Though the mayor’s gay and lesbian advisory
committee has received ACOG’s cooperation in
Coalition, the group formed to fight ACOG’s
initial decision, disbanded. But the coalition was
revived this summer after ACOG President Billy
Payne indicated in a television interview that the
Olympic torch run may go through Cobb County,
though the final route for the torch won’t be
announced until the end of the year. Not willing to
wait for a final decision, the coalition is organiz
ing nationwide protests now.
Jon-Ivan Weaver, co-chair of the coalition,
says his group does not oppose the idea of build
ing a welcome center for lesbian and gay visitors
and athletes. But that does not mean that the
protests against the torch run have been called off.
“There are going to be protests. They are going
to happen,” says Weaver.
The torch will make its way through parts of
40 states before arriving in Atlanta next July. The
coalition met with activists in November at the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating
Change conference, held in Detroit, to organize
the troops for protest at every city along the way.
The effort will culminate in actions against the
torch in Cobb County and Atlanta.
"The response [at the NGLTF conference]
was very supportive of what we are doing,” Weaver
says. “I think ACOG is in for a really big surprise
if they think they can go into Cobb County with
He adds, “W e’re not telling people not to
attend [the Olympics]. But as for myself, I will not
be attending any events. I am going to be very
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