Atlanta 1996 Olympic Venue Implodes but Legacy Remains

(ATR) The Georgia Dome may now be in rubble but its Olympic legacy will never be destroyed.

(ATR) The Georgia Dome may now be in rubble but its Olympic legacy will never be destroyed.

Home of basketball, gymnastics and handball during the Atlanta 1996 Summer Games, the Georgia Dome hosted a multitude of historical Olympic moments. From the triumph of Team USA’s Magnificent Seven gymnastics team to Muhammad Ali’s returned gold medal, organizers and spectators now retain the venue’s legacy in their memories.

"I think historically, it was probably the site of one of the most compelling competitions of the entire Games and that was the ladies gymnastics," Atlanta 1996 president Billy Payne tells Around the Rings. "A lot of great memories were made there."

The Georgia Dome imploded early Monday morning with many Atlantans tuning in to live coverage from WSB-TV. The event was streamed across all platforms because viewing was not open to the public due to an "abundance of caution," said GWCCA executive director Frank Poe.

Goodbye #GeorgiaDome

— Jay Holder (@jauntingjourno) November 20, 2017

The Georgia World Congress Center closed off the 220-acre campus where the Dome resides and asked local citizens to clear the roadways around the complex to ensure a safe implosion. Citizens like Jay Holder watched and filmed from nearby rooftops.

The Dome is succeeded by Atlanta's new Mercedes-Benz Stadium which sits directly adjacent to the imploded stadium. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is already developing its own legacy in its first year of use, including breaking the ticket sales record for a Major League Soccer match which featured the local Atlanta United F.C. It will also host the Super Bowl in 2019.

Payne says the Georgia Dome was instrumental in helping Atlanta beat out competition from Athens, Toronto and Melbourne, among others.

"We virtually assured [the IOC] they would have the largest audiences ever in the sports of volleyball and gymnastics simply because of the seating capacity and configuration for the Games."

"The Georgia Dome was a great asset for Atlanta’s bid in 1990," George Hirthler, a top communications strategist for Atlanta 1996, tells ATR. "While it wasn’t yet built, it was already planned, designed and guaranteed by the State of Georgia.

"So we featured it prominently in our bid books in renderings that showcased its position right next to the Georgia World Congress Center and the Omni, creating a great constellation of sports venues at the heart of our Olympic Ring."

The Georgia Dome also hosted memorable sporting moments outside of the Games as a venue for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons for more than 20 years. During this time, the Dome hosted two Super Bowls, three NCAA Final Four basketball tournaments, the annual SEC Championship football game, as well as a variety of concerts and community events throughout its 25-year lifespan.

"Overall, I’m very, very pleased and would compare our post-Games utilization of Olympic venues with anybody who’s ever held the Games," Payne emphasized.

While the Georgia Dome provided some of the more memorable moments from the Atlanta Games, Payne says he is not sad to see its implosion.

"No not at all, I look at it as a facility that served our city and state with integrity and purpose," Payne says. "We utilized it under the auspices of the Atlanta Falcons and the Georgia Dome staged multiple events through the years. I think it ran a good race and coming down there’s no sadness whatsoever."

The 13-acre footprint where the Dome stood will be developed as green space and will have a luxury high-rise hotel. It will be used for parking and tailgating during game days and as a "community space" on non-game days.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, two sections of the outside wall remains standing after the implosion. It will take at least three months to clean up the remains from the implosion and grade the site for redevelopment.

Written by Kevin Nutley

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