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My Unused Olympic Tickets from 1996

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My husband and I were in our early 20s when we ordered tickets to the Centennial Olympic Games held in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia. We had married in college and had not been able to afford a honeymoon, but during spring break in 1993, we took a road trip from Oklahoma to Colorado, spending an afternoon visiting the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. While there, we put our names on a list to order tickets as soon as they went on sale for the 1996 Olympics.

When the ticket brochure finally arrived, we realized quickly that most events were out of our price range. We did find a few events we could afford, though, and we made our selections for three or four events on consecutive days. Of course, these choices were not guaranteed. A few weeks later, a package arrived with tickets to just one single event, an early round of men's basketball with seats in the nosebleed section.

We didn't care, we were just thrilled to be taking a small part in a historic event on American soil. We were going to be spectators at the Olympics!

The next step in our plan was to make hotel reservations. The paperwork that came with the tickets indicated that spectators must reserve rooms in three night increments. It gave a huge list of hotels from Atlanta throughout all of Georgia and into the surrounding states, including their rates for three night stays and a central number to call to check availability.

It didn't take us long to realize that prices had been inflated well beyond what we'd expected to spend, and rooms had been fully booked by the Olympics organizers so that there were no reputable establishments outside their reservation system. The closest affordable rooms we could find during our event were more than 200 miles away from the venue.

For a working class young couple who just wanted to share in the Olympic dream, the organizers really threw a wrench in our plans. In the end, we realized it just wasn't worth going into credit card debt to stay in a motel at jacked up rates and see a single event from bad seats. We made the smart decision, and ended up with a beautiful pair of unused tickets from the 1996 Olympic Games as our only souvenirs.

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Tavia Fuller Armstrong is a lifelong fan of the Olympic Games and almost got to attend as a spectator once upon a time.

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