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December 30, 1996|MIKE PENNER

What: "Atlanta '96" Official

Commemorative Book.

Publisher: Woodford Press.

Price: $25.95.

The Atlanta Olympics will be forever remembered for the bombing at Centennial Park, except inside the official commemorative book, which emphasizes gloss as both a pictorial style and a bad-news editorial policy.

"As we look back on the legacy of the Atlanta Games," Bruce Jenner writes in an opening essay, "numerous athletic achievements stand out, but we certainly cannot ignore what happened in Centennial Park." No, but "Atlanta '96"--published "in cooperation" with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games--tries its damnedest, producing a coffee-table keepsake with vibrantly colored photographs, black ink and whitewash.

Ten pages are devoted to Day 8 of the Summer Games, which began with the pipe-bomb explosion. The chapter features pretty pictures of Donovan Bailey winning the 100, Gail Devers hugging Bobby Kersee, scantily clad Brazilian women spiking volleyballs on the beach--and one postage stamp-sized shot of white Olympic flags at half-mast, with a caption: "The games will go on."

Readers will probably assume Day 8 was marred by an inconvenient rainstorm. Elsewhere, Centennial Park references are scant and vague.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, writes in one foreword, "Although we live in a world where human tragedies persist, we are nevertheless convinced that in the future, as in the past, Olympism will, through its spirit of humanity and reconciliation, be a force for peace."

But that's more than Billy Payne, ACOG's ever-grinning spinmeister, could manage in a companion foreword. Payne rhapsodizes about "glorious moments" and "heroic achievements" and his grandiose take on the Olympic ideal--"to create a world unified in peace as we were truly unified in Atlanta."

Nearly 200 pages later, the official text of "Atlanta '96" concludes with one paragraph alluding to the bombing before brightly assessing: "There had been undeniable problems in Atlanta, but the city should take heart: No Olympics are perfect."

That kind of writing may look nice beneath the ACOG letterhead, but it makes for lousy history.

The Atlanta Olympics of '96 got the commemorative book it deserved.

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