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Research Horizons

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photo - vintage photo of olympic village visualization

A three-screen presentation system provided a preview of the venues that were being planned for the 1996 Olympic games.

text - Go for the White and Gold

When organizers of Atlanta’s bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics met with then-Georgia Tech President John Patrick Crecine, they were planning to ask for help in creating a 3-D architectural model of the city’s vision for its Olympic venues. Other cities bidding for the games were expected to use such models in what was then the standard way to visualize planned construction.

Instead, Crecine offered to help produce something that had never been part of an Olympic bid proposal before: an interactive 3-D simulation that would allow members of the selection committee to “fly through” the proposed venues. In the late 1980s, that kind of graphic presentation was truly cutting edge.

According to the Fall 1990 issue of Research Horizons, the program presented a wide-screen view of the proposed Olympic Village using three videodisc players, three computers, computer-composed music, digitized narration, and a unique interaction system that included a computer-animated, touch-sensitive, 3-D model of the Olympic Village on the Georgia Tech campus. A Commodore Amiga computer controlled the presentation.

The Georgia Tech research group, which included assistance from Georgia State University and several local companies, saw the presentation as a way to showcase Atlanta’s aspirations — and provide a testbed for developing innovative presentation techniques.

“We were going to catch the weary International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the last week of the bid competition, so we wanted to make this more entertaining than the other big presentations they would see,” said development team leader Michael J. Sinclair, quoted in the magazine. “We wanted to tell the audience about transportation, medical facilities, entertainment, training facilities, housing, and dining.”

The team relied heavily on computer-generated renderings of buildings proposed for the games. For instance, an architectural firm provided a database of information about the Olympic Dormitory, which now houses Georgia Tech students. Other facilities included the aquatic venue, which is now Tech’s Campus Recreation Center, and the Olympic Stadium, now home to Turner Field.

The program had its intended effect, and in the summer of 1996, Georgia Tech’s campus became the Olympic Village, housing some 15,000 athletes from around the world. — John Toon

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