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See Atlanta's Olympic Attractions

Find Out How Atlanta Transformed During the 1996 Olympics



Fountain of Rings at Centennial Olympic Park

Matthew Kimemia
Atlanta's bid for the 1996 Olympics transformed the city into an international destination. The city rapidly grew and built new housing, sport complexes and parks to house the Olympics and prepare for its influx in tourism. Get into the spirit of the games with a tour through Atlanta's Olympic past.

If you see nothing else, head to the 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park and Visitor Center adjacent to the Fountain of Rings. Interactive kiosks unfold the park's history and what the area looked like before the games. The park is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily including holidays unless there is a private event.

Some 500,000 commemorative bricks were sold during the Olympics to raise funds for the park's completion. The bricks cost $35 and were sold by mail, fax, phone and at area Home Depot Stores. Today, the park kiosks can tell you exactly where your commemorative brick lies in the sea of red. Walk through the park and see who bought bricks and the interesting names inscribed.

Cool down in Centennial Olympic Park's interactive Fountain of Rings. Just walk right in and watch as the fountains shaped in an Olympic Ring fashion squirt water. Catch a daily fountain show set to lively music at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted. You can also see the Fountain of Rings depicted on the Here and Now Monopoly game board.

Of course, the spirit of the olympics was marred on July 27, 1996 when a pipe bomb exploded on the grounds. The security guard who first discovered and reported it, Richard Jewell, probably saved thousands by helping evacuate the park. Jewell later endured intense scrutiny as the possible bomber. Eric Robert Rudolph later confessed to the bombing, as well as others, and is serving a life sentence in Colorado.

Located in the Fentener van Vlissingen Family Wing of the Atlanta History Center, The Centennial Olympic Games Museum takes a look back at Atlanta's Olympic legacy. Learn more about the games of ancient Greece and Atlanta's three-year Olympic bid process and the rapid growth of the city in preparation for those fateful 17-days.

The museum offers a mix of multimedia installations and interactive displays. There are also sculptures, photographs and an indoor running track. The Olympic Games Museum is also the only place you'll find a complete collection of Olympic torches and medals in the country.

Although you can't walk in and visit the next two Olympic destinations, they're still worth a look as you're driving through Atlanta during a day of sightseeing.

Originally part of the Olympic Stadium, Atlanta's Olympic Flame Tower can be seen at Fulton Street and Hank Aaron Drive and while driving past the city along I-85. The stadium was reconfigured for the Braves official use and the city relocated the cauldron about a block away.

Though the Olympic tower remains mostly unnoticed today, the torch once dazzled as it was lit by boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Millions of people watched on TV and on the streets as the boxer tackled his Parkinson's disease with dignity to make Olympic history.

Next, stop by the largest drive-through restaurant in the world, The Varsity, and look a little Southbound. You'll see the Georgia Institute of Technology's student housing hovering above I-85. The building was once the home of the Olympic Village where athletes were housed during the games. The complex was later became Georgia State University's first residential housing before changing hands to its current owner.

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