Centennial Olympic Park was built on the shoddy western side of downtown Atlanta
as a mass gathering place for the 1996 Olympic Games. Its long-term promise—explicitly made—was to catalyze redevelopment. In a park-poor
city with a struggling downtown and a populace eager to welcome the world, this was an easy sell. And by many measures, the park
has fulfilled these goals.
During the games, thousands—not just Olympics visitors but also Atlantans, who before then may have rarely ventured downtown—came
to savor the thrill of the multinational throng and to enjoy the corporate entertainment pavilions set up in and around the park.
One evening, the festivities were torn apart by a bomb for which a right-wing fanatic awaits trial: two dead and more than 100
injured. A terrorist tragedy compels identification with a site, even for those who have never been there; the bombing probably
placed the park even more widely into regional consciousness.
Since 1996, the park has provided valuable, agreeable open space near the heart of the city. It attracts pedestrian bustle where
once there was none and has hosted hundreds of special events and concerts. There have also been considerable renovation and
new construction in the immediate vicinity. Actually, a much larger area around downtown, dubbed “intown,” is enjoying revitalization.
Suburban growth has hardly stopped, but there is a discernible trend toward Atlanta’s center. This is propelled by obvious things—dysfunctional
sprawl, population growth, urban chic. It is also unquantifiably a legacy of the proud sense of connection sparked by the Olympics.
In the not-too-distant future, intown’s remaining kudzu-choked lots, disused buildings, and acres of surface parking should finally
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