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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Postcript

Times staff writers take a look back at the Centennial Games

August 05, 1996|BILL PLASCHKE

From the moment the bomb rattled the walls of my downtown hotel at 1:25 a.m. on the second Saturday of the Games, my favorite event at these Olympics became the triple jump.

With every clank of a manhole cover, with every whoosh of a bus' air brakes, with each of a hundred sounds that normally rattle past unnoticed in everyday life, I jumped.

These irrational fears took a different form four days after the bombing, while I was sitting in the press box of the wrestling venue. Next to me was an Armenian journalist with a camera bag.

He removed the camera, stood up, and pointed to the bag.

"This bag will save my place, right?" he said.

"Right," I said.

Moments later, an American journalist sitting on my other side stared at me.

"You let a guy like that walk away and leave an unattended bag here!" he said. "A photographer who wasn't taking any pictures?"

I laughed, chided him for his fears, then walked with him down from the press box to look for wrestlers.

We walked from one side of the venue to the other, walking in circles, when he said, "I know why we're down here so long. We're afraid to go back up by that bag."

I laughed again. But this time, he was right.

When we finally did return to our seat, just before the main event, the Armenian had returned. He sat there clutching his bag, watching the drama on the mats and smiling.

"Exciting, huh?" he said.

I simply nodded, too ashamed to speak.


My favorite unsanctioned Olympic event:

About 1 a.m., on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, a large crowd cheered athletic and movie stars as they entered Planet Hollywood.

Three blocks down, a young family wasn't listening.

With Mom filming, and Dad coaching, and baby sleeping, two young boys competed in a sidewalk long jump.

"Foul," cried the father every time one of them stepped on a crack.

And I thought they were simply breaking their mother's back.

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