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ATL Business Chronicle Maria's Metro

Column: Group will try to rekindle Atlanta’s Olympic flame on June 23

By Maria Saporta
Friday, June 07, 2012

A group of Olympic athletes are doing what they can to keep Atlanta’s Olympic legacy alive.

On June 23, Georgia’s Olympians and Paralympians will hold a “Walk to London” at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. The “Walk to London” is being held in cities across the country to help build awareness for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games that will be held in London beginning next month.

The event also will showcase Georgia’s support for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams that will be competing in London.

It has been 16 years since Atlanta was the site of the Summer Olympic Games, an event that gave the city unprecedented international exposure and helped transform several areas, including Centennial Olympic Park and downtown.

A few weeks ago, Georgians who have close ties to the Olympics found out that the United States Olympians Association was planning a national “Walk to London” in 20 cities across the country.

But Atlanta was not on that list.

“When we asked why not, we found out the Georgia chapter of Olympians and Paralympians had gone dormant,” said Bob Pickens, a Greco-Roman wrestler at the Tokyo 1964 Olympics who moved to Atlanta from Chicago about 10 years ago.

Dennis Berkholtz, who was one of the athletes on the U.S. Team Handball during the Munich games of 1972, said that the Georgia Olympians Association had been headed by Pearce “Rocky” Lane, a 1956 Olympic boxer.

“Rocky has since moved to Michigan, and no one picked up the torch,” Berkholtz said. “The goal is to rekindle the Olympic spirit in Atlanta.”

So Berkholtz, Pickens and fellow Olympian Mel Pender, who was part of the track and field team during the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, have gotten together to revive the Georgia Olympians Association by holding the “Walk to London” event. George Hirthler, who wrote the original bid that helped Atlanta win the Olympics, also has helped organize the event.

The “Walk to London” event at Centennial Olympic Park will have several activities between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on June 23. It will be open and free to the public. The day will have several sports-related activities and ceremonial Olympic highlights, such as Olympians and Paralympians signing autographs.

Georgia is estimated to have about 200 Olympians living in the state, and organizers hope that many will attend the event.

As Berkholtz said, the “Walk to London” event in Atlanta is a prelude to 2016, when Atlanta will celebrate its 20th anniversary as an Olympic city.
“The interest has fallen off dramatically in Atlanta,” Berkholtz said. “We need to rekindle the spirit.”

Veronica Biggins to lead practice

Atlantan Veronica Biggins has been named as the head of the board of directors practice for Diversified Search, a Philadelphia-based executive search firm.

Biggins, who joined the woman-owned firm last year, will continue to live in Atlanta.

“Her experience serving as a director on Fortune 500 boards over the past 15 years uniquely equips Veronica to consult with boards of directors as they face the daunting challenges in today’s rapidly changing regulatory and economic environment, where demand for experienced and qualified diverse talent is in much demand,” said Judith M. von Seldeneck, founder, chairman and CEO of Diversified Search.

ToolBank expands

Atlanta-based ToolBank USA will open two new ToolBanks this summer — one in Baltimore and one in Cincinnati.

Each ToolBank serves local nonprofits, schools and faith-based organizations by lending high-quality tools, as many as 150 different types, to charitable organizations and their volunteers.

Nonprofits borrow the tools at 3 percent of their retail value, making an abundant supply of tools available at a nominal cost.

Each ToolBank is modeled after the lessons learned at the “flagship Atlanta ToolBank,” which is now in its 21st year of operations and serving nearly 50,000 volunteers a year. ToolBank USA was founded in 2008 by CEO Mark Brodbeck, who served as executive director of the Atlanta ToolBank for six years. The two new ToolBanks will bring the number of national affiliates to four.

Food Bank banks $30,000

Nationwide Insurance Foundation has given the Atlanta Community Food Bank a grant of $30,000. The grant is part of a $1.25 million donation that was made to the national office of Feeding America.

“It comes at an important time for us,” said Bill Bolling, founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. “With the need for food assistance still on the rise and school being out for the summer, many families will need extra help feeding their kids since they would usually receive breakfast and lunch at school.”

Israel chamber celebrates

The American-Israel Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 20th anniversary as “the premier Israel economic support organization in North America.”

The chamber’s Southeast region will celebrate the anniversary at its Eagle Star Awards Gala on Tuesday, June 12, at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The keynote speaker will be Jonathan Medved, one of the stars of the book “Start Up Nation” and the film “Israel Inside.”, CEO of Senior Connections.Insurance.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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