via AW Photography
As we prepare for the London Olympics, I can’t help but remember the 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympic Games that shaped my hometown in so many ways. Prior to Atlanta’s selection as host city, it was known more for rap music and events like Freaknik than international sporting events. The local government went into overdrive to clean up the city’s image, knocking down projects to build the Olympic Village and “relocating” some of the city’s homeless population. And despite all the hard work, most people remember the games by the bombing at Centennial Olympic Park. But for at least a few weeks, the eyes of the world were on Atlanta.
I remember going to see a cycling event as they made their way through the Chastain area. My family also went to Centennial Olympic Park where hundreds of vendors were set up. Since then, the structures built for the Olympics have changed ownership or even been knocked down.
Where Are We Now?
Centennial Olympic Park
It was the hub for all activity during the games and is now the hub of tourism for the city, surrounded by the Georgia Aquarium, CNN Center and World of Coca Cola. The park hosts festivals and concerts throughout the year. The Fountain of Rings bring in plenty of people on hot days.
During the games it was known as the Olympic Stadium, but know it’s Turner Field, affectionately known by Atlanta Braves fans as “The Ted,” after benefactor Ted Turner.
Olympic Village and Aquatic Center
via Brooks & Julie
The Aquatic Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology was used for all of the swimming events in the games. The Olympic Village has been transformed into dormitories, at the time for Georgia State University but is now owned by Georgia Tech.
The Georgia Dome hosted the basketball, gymnastics and handball events and still is home to sporting events for the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
It was home to the Braves from 1965 until after the Olympic Games. It was used for baseball events but was demolished to be turned into a parking lot when the team moved to the converted Turner Field.
Opened in 1972, the Omni held all major sporting events, concerts and the 1988 Democratic National Convention. It hosted the indoor volleyball events, but due to structural issues, it was demolished in 1999 in favor of the new Philips Arena. All that remains of the Omni is the scoreboard hanging in Philips, but the Omni Hotel chain was started as a result of the coliseum.
Some things haven’t changed since the 1996 Olympics. Public transportation is still a nightmare, with MARTA leaving a lot to be desired. The homeless population has moved back into the neighborhoods that were “revitalized” for the Olympics. London doesn’t need as drastic of a makeover, but it will be interesting to see what the city looks like in fifteen years as a result of the games.
Atlanta’s Olympic Legacy, Creative Loafing Atlanta