Nema Etheridge for GlobalAtlanta
As Atlanta celebrates 10 years since hosting the Centennial Olympic Games, the city’s international reputation continues to attract foreign-based business to Georgia, as economic developers would have hoped.

“Hosting the Olympics changed our reputation in the world,” said Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce at a June 19 press conference. The conference announced the city’s 10th anniversary celebration plans that are to take place Saturday, July 15, at the Atlanta History Center and Centennial Olympic Park.

Since 1996, some 280 foreign-based businesses have located in metro Atlanta, the chamber reported. Just last week, Georgia attracted its first Chinese direct investment by Ningbo-based Lehui Inc., and Macon announced a $74 million investment by Japan-based Nichiha Corp.

The number of foreign governments represented in Georgia by consuls general and honorary consuls rose from 38 to 53 since 1996, and international traffic at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has increased from 2.9 million passengers in 1995 to 6.7 million in 2005, according to the chamber.

Atlanta’s growth as an international business hub may in part be due to the state’s efforts to leverage the 1996 Olympic Games for economic development purposes.

“What we saw initially important was the opportunity to utilize our selection as an Olympic host city to market Atlanta and Georgia to the world,” said Randy Cardoza, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism from 1990-2000.

Mr. Cardoza, who headed up what is now called the Georgia Department of Economic Development, worked on an economic development effort spearheaded by Georgia Power Co. to market Georgia at home and abroad.

“Operation Legacy,” as it was called, brought businesspeople from across the world to Georgia before and during the Olympics to promote the state as an investment location.

“We collectively began to invite people to come to Atlanta prior to the games to see the state and develop relationships,” Mr. Cardoza told GlobalAtlanta in a telephone interview separate from the June 19 press conference. Bank of America Inc., the Georgia Research Alliance and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce participated in the project as well, he said.

The development office also encouraged communities throughout Georgia to form relationships with Olympic athletes by inviting them to train in their communities prior to the 1996 summer games, said Mr. Cardoza.

“These communities put together packages to get Olympic players to come here to begin training to compete in Georgia’s climate. And it worked really well,” he said, adding that many athletes developed a positive impression of Georgia because of the program and still remain in touch with their host communities.

He said that he was unsure whether any of those contacts led to business deals, however.

Georgia’s efforts to promote inward investment during the Olympics was the first time a host state, or city, had created an economic development program around the Olympics to market itself to the world, Mr. Cardoza said.

As a result, Olympic organizers for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, worked with Georgia representatives and Operation Legacy members to create similar development programs, he said.

The city of Atlanta will also work with Beijing officials to help them prepare for the 2012 Olympic games, Mr. Williams told GlobalAtlanta at the press conference.

Also during the press conference, Mr. Williams and Billy Payne, an Atlanta lawyer who led the state’s bid to bring the Olympics here, announced that the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead would unveil a new 27,500 square-foot wing devoted to the Centennial Olympic Games Museum at 10 a.m. on July 15.

Later the same day, the city of Atlanta will host an anniversary celebration in Centennial Olympic Park, which was created for the 1996 games. Olympic athletes, musical guests and volunteers are to lead the celebration, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

For more information on Atlanta’s July 15 celebrations, visit or

For more information on the Metro chamber, contact Esther Campi at (404) 586-8474 or