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Original Issue


The day began in fits and starts, a stuttering of spirit as
organizers and fans wondered whether it was all worth it. A pipe
bomb had ripped through Centennial Olympic Park in the early
hours, casting a deep gloom that the morning's rain did little
to dispel.

But proclamations were made, assurances broadcast, and before
you knew it the Games were back in business. The skies cleared
and stadiums filled. It was amazing how quickly those deadly
moments could be put aside if you had a race to run or a ticket
to watch someone else run. Suddenly all you were thinking about
was a photo finish in the women's 100 meters (Gail Devers
beating 36-year-old Jamaican Merlene Ottey by the length of one
of her talonlike fingernails) or Kenny Harrison, having won the
triple jump, kneeling in the Olympic Stadium pit to scoop into a
plastic bag some of the sand he had just soared over.

There was nothing, however, like the men's 100-meter race to
remind us why we love competition so. The sprint is the marquee
event of track and field, 10 seconds of pure sport. And this
field promised a churning blur to remember: returning Olympic
champion Linford Christie, a 36-year-old Briton; Namibia's
Frankie Fredericks, the last man to beat Michael Johnson in a
final (in the 200 meters); the 1995 world champion, Canadian
Donovan Bailey; and 22-year-old Trinidadian Ato Boldon. Olympic
Stadium was filled with 81,742 people who had set aside their
fear in order to watch.

They were rewarded. To everyone's amazement, Christie was
banished from the field before the race began, having twice
false-started. He protested the call, refused to leave the
track, sulked about the blocks for five minutes and, in a
magnificent show of petulance, stripped down to his trunks
before finally retreating to a stadium tunnel near the starting

The crack of the pistol, the explosion of color and the crazy,
manic charge down the straightaway--Bailey, chugging from behind
as if drawn on a wire, crashing through the pack at 70 meters,
finishing with a world-record time of 9.84, his grin as wide as
his lead: It was breathtaking. It always is.

It was great sport, wonderful theater, reassurance you could
take home in a bag. The Olympics, after a false start of its
own, was off and running again.

COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR. In the 100 meters, a jubilant Bailey beat Fredericks and a stunningly fast field to help lift the somber mood broughton by the bomb in Centennial Olympic Park. [Donovan Bailey and Frankie Fredericks crossing the finnish line]

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Though the flag was at half-mast, Devers (second from right) was atfull speed, outleaning Ottey (3478) in a photo finish to win the 100. [Merlene Ottey, Gail Devers and others crossing the finish line]

COLOR PHOTO: ERIC RISBERG/ASSOCIATED PRESS Gears stopped turning as cyclists observed a moment of silence to honor victims of the bomb blast. [Two bicyclists]