The 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta were the first ones where I was genuinely interested in watching (okay, well mainly the women’s gymnastic events). I had just turned 11 the month before and the fact that one of the members on the United States Women’s Gymnastic Team was only a couple of years older than I was just seemed incredible to me considering that someone who was around my age was competing in a worldwide sporting event. (Dominique Moceanu was only 14 at the games and was the last gymnast at the Olympics to compete legally at that age.) The United States Women’s Gymnastic Team would go on to win the country’s first ever gold medal in the team competition at the Atlanta games and even be nicknamed the “Magnificent Seven” for the incredible job they all did there. When planning things to do on my recent trip to Atlanta I thought it would be neat to visit one of the most vivid reminders of the Atlanta games-Centennial Olympic Park.
Centennial Olympic Park is located right in the city’s downtown. It was only about a 10 minute walk from our hotel and if you’re not staying in the downtown area, a 10 minute walk from the Peachtree MARTA station (the city’s metro system). Comprising 21 acres, the park was originally created out of a decrepit downtown area. Having strolled through it a couple of times while there, I can’t imagine it ever being anything but a beautiful park oasis.
The highlight of the park was the Fountain of Rings and its 251 water jets in the shape of the five interlocking Olympic rings. The plaza is bordered by 23 flags honoring the host countries of the summer games from 1996 and earlier. Being as it was a hot night in “Hotlanta,” the fountain area was mobbed with children (and some adults) looking to cool off. The one thing I didn’t care for was a group of three pre-teen boys were “swimming” in a pool style fountain (I guess they figured they were too old to splash through the standing fountain). I found this incredibly tacky since here was this beautiful space with three kids (no parents around of course) who were just doing what they wanted to do even if it meant swimming in something that was by no means meant for aquatic activity. There was park staff around but no one that seemed more “security guard like”.
With how large it was, the park really had space for everyone, especially when you got away from the area teeming with the shrieking, water soaked children. We came across individuals who were kicking around a soccer ball, playing catch, and even one couple that was having a picnic which really seemed delightful to me. There were also plenty of areas for quiet solitude if you wanted it-spaces that were covered by immense trees. It was the kind of place where unless you looked up, you wouldn’t always know you were right in the middle of a major metropolitan area.
I loved the Olympic mementos that were scattered “here and there” the most though. This was the closest I’ve ever been to an Olympic Games (even if it was almost 20 years after they were played) so it was just neat to see these sorts of legacies since normally I only view them on television.
Centennial Olympic Park was a great place to visit. It would be of interest and enjoyment to people of all ages and its convenient location (easy to get to from MARTA, also located right next to popular attractions like Coca Cola World, the Georgia Aquarium, and the CNN Studio Tour) is the perfect reason why you should not pass up visiting.
Have you ever been to the Olympics?
Centennial Olympic Park
265 Park Avenue W. NW (at Baker Street)
Open daily 7 AM-11 PM