Brutalized by critics for its perceived over-commercialization, Atlanta bucked its go-go stereotype—at least temporarily—with one of the most achingly human moments in opening ceremony history.
The man responsible was Muhammad Ali—36 years after he became an Olympic gold medalist in Rome and more than a decade into his fight against Parkinson's disease—appearing unannounced to light the Olympic flame.
Shaking, struggling and yet eminently graceful, Ali sent the crowd into delirium.
NBC commentator Bob Costas verbalized the soaring emotions with an all-time great sport soliloquy.
Once the most dynamic figure in sports—a gregarious man now trapped inside that mask created by Parkinson's Syndrome. So in one sense a poignant figure, but look at it—still a great, great presence, still exuding nobility and stature. And the response he evokes is part affection, part excitement, but especially respect. What a moment.