ATLANTA -- An unsung hero helped bring the Olympics to Atlanta 20 years ago.
Older than the hotel in which he works is a self-proclaimed ambassador for the city he loves.
For decades, Albert “Smitty” Smith has been greeting guests at Atlanta’s Marriott Marquis.
“During that time, Atlanta was still very soft,” he said of the time when he first began. “Then you said ‘coming to Atlanta’, the first thing that would come into your mind was fried chicken.”
But then came the chance at a certain five-ringed circus. When Atlanta’s Olympic organizers wanted to impress visiting delegates, they sent in Smitty.
“I would make sure they get Coca-Cola, if they want a beer, if they want a soda -- that was my job,” he said. “I would make it happen.”
Then came Tokyo -- the final push before the Olympic announcement. Billy Payne, Atlanta’s Olympic architect, specifically requested Smitty fly in.
Smitty brought his hospitality, along with a bright red jacket and a sign that said in French and English, “Say yes to Atlanta”.
“You got to understand, a lot of people was counting us out,” Smitty said. “Everybody around me was saying, ‘We’re not gonna win. We can’t win. We never win nothing. We can’t win.’ And it just happened.”
It happened and the Atlanta ambassador was never prouder.
“Everybody was hugging; everybody was crying,” he said. “It was like, ‘Wow, did we just do this?’”
More than a quarter-century later, Smitty still honors the Olympics. And he still works at the Marriott Marquis. He’s been with the company for 47 years.