Push Comes to Shove for Atlanta Games
Goldberg, Karen, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
ATLANTA - What you see on the skyline of this city aren't shiny new skyscrapers or the flags of the 197 countries invited to the Centennial Olympic Games.
Instead, you see cranes and scaffolding, cement mixers and steam shovels, all working to a chorus of jackhammers and worry.
Today, 80 days before the Games begin, marks two important deadlines in the race to ready Atlanta for the 2.5 million visitors, - including 15,000 athletes and coaches and 15,000 journalists.
The $232 million Olympic Stadium and the $200 million renovations to Hartsfield International Airport both must be completed today to meet deadlines. On Saturday, the stadium looked as if it would be completed on time. On Sunday, the airport looked as if it would not.
Olympic Stadium, built next to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, was ready enough to hold an orientation meeting for some 2,000 opening ceremonies volunteers over the weekend. The track is in place, as is the sod field and the scoreboard.
"It's mostly done," said Olympic Stadium manager Bob Stiles. "There are about 10 sections of seats that need to be filled in. What was started here in July of 1993 will be completed by May 1."
Olympic Stadium will host a major track meet May 18. Each venue will hold at least one "test event" before the Games to work out the bugs in everything from concessions to scoreboard operations to security.
"Will it be exactly the same as it will be during the Games? Maybe one of the broom closets won't be painted," said Dave Maggard, managing director of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG). "We are asked daily about our readiness for the Olympic Games. The fact is we are not ready today. We don't have to be. We will be ready July 19."
At the airport, about half of the 184 new stores remain unfinished. Businesses have been warned that if they blow today's deadline, they must remain closed throughout the 17 days of the Games and miss out on the millions of dollars that international tourists are expected to spend.
That threat has meant some construction workers have put in close to 100 hours a week, even though airport officials last week relaxed the deadline for 17 businesses. The same officials said only those 17 appeared unable to make the deadline, but as of Sunday there was still constant construction activity at Hartsfield.
Within the Olympic Ring - the 1.5-mile downtown circle that will host the majority of events - things are a bit more organized. The existing Georgia Dome, the site of gymnastics and basketball, is ready, as are field hockey venues at Clark Atlanta University and Morris Brown College.
The $21 million aquatic center at Georgia Tech has a ways to go. The natatorium is covered but will remain open-air on the sides. The wooden skeleton of the 14,000-seat grandstand is in place, but the actual seats still have to be installed.
And, of course, the pools must be finished and filled. The outdoor water polo venue next door remains an Olympic-sized muddy hole in the ground.
Although the venues almost certainly will be done - even if it is a race toward a July 19 finish - it is the supporting areas that are suspect. Olympic Centennial Park, the area in front of CNN headquarters that is projected to be the town square of the Olympic Ring, currently is a quagmire. Scheduled to open this month, the project was delayed by poor winter weather; its completion date now has been pushed back to six days before the opening ceremonies.
"Centennial Park is already a very different site than it was two months ago," Maggard said. "It will be completed."
Next door at Centennial Plaza, where vistors will walk down a pathway of commemorative bricks, about a third of the stones are in place. Workers were busy last weekend pouring the cement to complete the …
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Publication information: Article title: Push Comes to Shove for Atlanta Games. Contributors: Goldberg, Karen - Author. Newspaper title: The Washington Times (Washington, DC). Publication date: May 1, 1996. Page number: 1. © 2009 The Washington Times LLC. COPYRIGHT 1996 Gale Group.
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