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Atlanta 1996 / 1 DAY TO THE GAMES

Rings and Bars

July 18, 1996|LISA DILLMAN

There is the first medal, the first world record . . . and the first highly publicized incarceration of the Olympic Games.

It wasn't an athlete, coach or overzealous spectator.

It was a sportswriter.

Olympic beat writer Jody Meacham of the San Jose Mercury News spent more than three unsettled hours Wednesday morning in jail in suburban Roswell, Ga.

Police charged him with driving 96 mph on the freeway, reckless driving and eluding arrest. Meacham, who said he was driving 70 mph and did not try to elude police, gave an impromptu news briefing after a swimming news conference at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, even pulling reporters away from swimming star Janet Evans.

He was still feeling unsettled hours later, saying he had been surrounded by police and pushed against his car.

"The people I could see didn't have a gun out, but I was scared the people behind me might," he said. "All I could do was keep my hands up, so I wasn't threatening."

Meacham maintained that it was a case of mistaken identity.

He got out after paying $600 to a bail bondsman.

"They took VISA," he said.

Elsewhere, a corporate behemoth was throwing its weight around at the Corporate Olympics.

Several staff members of the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, as well as other visitors to the Atlanta area, were prevented from getting into their own downtown condo--for which they had paid several thousand dollars per week--by some overzealous Reebok security guards.

The guards believed Planet Reebok apparently extended to the entire complex and grudgingly gave way after distributing Reebok Ring Access Cards to the non-Reebok family members staying at the building.

Keeping the right people in and the wrong people out is not always orderly.

"It's been pretty unorganized," said one Dutch security guard at the Olympic Village who declined to be identified. "You would think the United States is organized, but maybe that's what you think from watching on TV."

"I wonder if I can get in?" he asked.

That seems to be the operative question in Atlanta.

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