Skip to main content


The choir had just wrapped up its closing hymn when a line began
to form outside Bud World, one of the cornerstones of Centennial
Olympic Park and home of Atlanta's longest bar. For the first
time in three unforgettable days, cool water sprayed from the
fountains, and the cold beer was not far behind, moms and dads
diving back into the celebration as enthusiastically as the

It was just after 10:30 yesterday morning, an odd time to be
bellying up to the bar, perhaps, but somehow the actions of
these thirsty revelers seemed strangely out of step with those
of the hordes that flocked to the other side of the park. It
was, sadly but not surprisingly, the hottest attraction yet of
the Summer Games. Carl Lewis could jump over the Dream Team with
Kerri Strug on his shoulders and still he could not match the
interest that was generated by...the Hole.

The Hole, fortunately, had been filled in and the tragic spot
shielded by an aluminum partition, but that didn't stop the
gawkers from stampeding past the pile of flowers laid near the
site of Saturday-morning's explosion. Tourists with disposable
cameras stood shoulder to shoulder with news photographers, all
battling for the best shot of the scene of the crime. Some
bystanders broke down in tears, which, of course, made for
better sound bites.

Professional athletes in the Olympics is one thing, but
professional interviewees may be going too far. At least two of
the people giving interviews at the bomb site yesterday morning
had been seen telling their stories to the cameras immediately
after the attack Saturday morning. Hey, it's cheaper than a

A TV reporter walked near the site with a cameraman in tow,
shouting, "Is anyone here from Boston?" Jesse Jackson took
questions from reporters and signed autographs, and a few feet
away, actor Emmanuel Lewis of the old sitcom Webster did the
same. Clearly, a bomb cannot halt the Olympic Games--or their
bizarre sideshow.

Centennial Olympic Park was reopened a few minutes after eight
o'clock yesterday morning, and you shouldn't have to ask who was
first through the gates. "I'd say the first 20 people were all
photographers and cameramen," said Air Force Sgt. Bobby Robeson,
who was stationed at the International Boulevard entrance. "They
were all out here by 6 a.m. The people got in line behind them."

An estimated 3,000 people were waiting when the gates opened.
U.S. superheavyweight wrestler and publicity hound Matt
Ghaffari, who vowed to be first in the park, didn't stand a
chance. He followed the media crowd and placed a basket of
flowers and a replica of his silver medal in front of the tower
where the bomb exploded.

While the idea of asking a stranger to take your picture in
front of the damaged tower may seem morbid, it was hard to blame
some of the rubbernecked gawkers for their curiosity. This was,
after all, more than just a place where a terrorist's bomb
exploded, leading to the deaths of two people and injuring more
than 100. It was also the set of a live network TV show. The
Today show broadcast live yesterday from the grassy hill in
front of the tower, not more than 30 feet from the Hole. We can
only assume that it was not logistically possible to do a remote
from a boat off of East Moriches, Long Island. As if this
programming decision were not embarrassing enough, a group of
onlookers broke into the chant "Bry-ANT! Bry-ANT!" It was enough
to drive a person to Bud World.

Two hours after the official opening, a memorial service was
held from the stage that had last been occupied by Jack Mack and
the Heart Attack. A moment of silence was led by a group of
Olympic dignitaries, including Andrew Young, Billy Payne, Juan
Antonio Samaranch and, of course, Janet (Zelig) Evans. They
raised their clasped hands and rededicated the park. The word
peace was flashed on the screen in many languages, and water
burst from the fountain.

The memorial service was brief and so, it seemed, was the somber
tone. Until the bombing, the park had served as a kind of
wide-open block party at the heart of the Games, a place where
people could go without tickets or credentials to dance and
drink and run through the fountain. It was a place without the
pretension or the dignity of the official Olympic venues, and
once the prayers were said and the hymns were sung, Centennial
Olympic Park was back to its old crowded and crazy ways, if not
quite back to normal.

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Flowers were left scattered behind in the rush to the Hole. [Centennial Olympic Park]