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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Fountain of Rings Is One of Hottest Spots in Town

Park: It wins for most screams of delight, best choreography, and best legend: The story of the Naked Woman.

August 04, 1996|JOAN KIRCHNER | ASSOCIATED PRESS

ATLANTA — Just when Carter Garner thought it was safe to go back into the Fountain of Rings, water shot out of the spouts and zapped him.

"I took a hit in the backside, if you will," the smiling Murfreesboro, Tenn., father said, the seat of his shorts soaking wet. "That's OK."

Getting soaked is just fine with most of the adults who--like the hordes of children darting in and out--are unable to resist plunging into the middle of the five-ring fountain in Centennial Olympic Park.

Outside the athletic venues, the sophisticated fountain wins for most screams of delight, best choreography, and best legend: The story of the Naked Woman.

.. Like a spewing fire hydrant that draws the neighborhood kids on a hot summer day, the fountain has drawn thousands of Olympic visitors seeking relief from Atlanta's heat in the three weeks the park has been open.

Even on Friday morning, when skies were overcast and temperatures only in the 70s, throngs of kids in bathing suits and adults in T-shirts and shorts walked into the fountain, which is flush with the ground.

"Come on, we're goin' in," retiree Arnold Ford of Griffin, Ga., said to his three buddies after taking one look at the frivolity.

"We're from the country. We'll do anything," Ford's buddy, Henry Neill, said as he followed.

While most children pitch a fit when parents tell them it's time to go, 2-year-old William Griggers of Kennesaw pitched his on the way in as his dad dragged him in backward on a kiddie leash.

"He doesn't like the water falling on his head. I messed up," Donnie Griggers said, trying to calm his soaked son. But the relatives got a good picture.

The rings create five round curtains of water that shoot 4 feet to 35 feet high. That is, when children aren't blocking the jets by sitting, standing or holding their faces over them.

When the 400 fog jets are turned on, their mist is so thick that the frolicking children disappear from view. Parents know their children haven't been swallowed up because the shrieks of delight never stop.

Five times a day, the fountain is cleared for a choreographed show, in which the streams of water bounce up and down to the beat of five songs, including "Chariots of Fire" and the finale to the "1812 Overture."

Now about that Naked Woman. As park volunteers tell it, a woman stripped as she strolled toward the fountain saying, "The Lord is my shepherd." Security guards quickly scooped up her clothes and formed a curtain around her so she could dress.

"I didn't actually see her, but a lot of people did and now it's legend," said volunteer Andrew Deskins of Atlanta, using a bullhorn to remind kids that they have to keep their clothes and their shoes on.

Deskins did see the two women who walked into the fountain wearing skimpy thong suits.

"This guy comes up to me and says, 'Do you all want scantily clad women in the fountain?' Then he pointed them out and I said, 'Oh my.' " Deskins blushed as he described their tiny red-white-and-blue suits.

"It was patriotic and all, but something you would see at the Cheetah," Deskins said, referring to a local strip club. "We kind of scooted them on their way."

This is, after all, a family fountain.

Just ask Steve and Cindy Nelson of Stone Mountain, Ga., who stood at the edge of the fountain holding beach towels while their three kids scurried from ring to ring for the better part of an hour.

"Good, cheap entertainment, that's for sure," Nelson said.

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