Lighting The Torch

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Muhammad Ali almost ready to light the Olympic Flame at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia on July 19, 1996. Janet Evans looks on at the right, probably ready to assist if the situation required it.

Let me share with you another Muhammad Ali memory. Hey, he’s worth it.

I was living in Marietta, Georgia in 1996 when the Atlanta Olympics took place. It will always be a fond memory for me to have lived in the shadow of an Olympics, because not too many areas in the world get such an honor.

I watched a good chunk of the games those two weeks and change on NBC, and watched the opening ceremonies. They made a big hullabaloo over who would get the light the Olympic Flame, to the point where my mind was racing about it to the point where you couldn’t enjoy the pageantry of the opening.

As the torch lighting ceremonies came down to the final moments, I was out of my mind wondering WHO would light the torch at the end, and why won’t they tell us? Janet Evans, the gold-medal swimmer, had the torch near the climax, and then I saw that Muhammad Ali was there for the finale.

On one hand, it blew me away that he received the honor. But on another front, it horrified me! It was well known that Ali suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, probably from being in the ring for a few fights too many. I’m sure the organizers had contingency plans if the legendary Ali somehow couldn’t complete his task, but watching this on live TV didn’t ease my thoughts that this could be a potential disaster.

Needless to say, it went off without a hitch, and when the flame was lit, I took a sigh of relief. Quite a moment looking back at it, now that I know all went well.

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