The remains of the games: Ranking our Olympics infrastructure

A look at the long-term benefits of major projects completed in the rush to 1996
1092

Atlanta poured $1 billion into an Olympic building frenzy—supplemented by cash from TV rights, corporate sponsorships, and ticket sales. This generated a $5 billion economic impact that summer, and decades of population growth and international investment. But how have those construction projects paid off?

Illustration by Walter Newton

★★★★★
1 Centennial Olympic Park
Before the Games 5 acres of blight
During the Games A favorite gathering spot for locals and visitors; everyone loved that fountain
Today A 21-acre oasis surrounded by zillion-dollar new attractions like the aquarium and the Center for Civil and Human Rights

★★★★
2 Olympic Village
Before the Games Fanciful ideas—high-rises straddling North Avenue!—were ditched for a cluster of mid-rise dorms on Georgia Tech’s campus and incorporating land previously occupied by Techwood Homes, a historic but troubled housing project.
During the Games The $200 million village housed 14,000 athletes and coaches from 197 nations.
Today Tech dorms

★★★★
3 Concourse E at the Atlanta airport
Before the Games Okay, not technically an Olympic project. But the Games spurred a 1.3 million-square-foot expansion, completed in 1994.
During the Games The $305 million international concourse impressed Olympic delegates and handled a crush of visitors.
Today The Games boosted ATL to world’s-busiest-airport status, and the hub still spurs growth here.

★★★
4 Centennial Olympic Stadium
Before the Games A run-down area decimated by highways (1950s) and a ballpark (1960s)
During the Games A spiffy stadium for opening and closing ceremonies and track and field; an old ballpark for, well, baseball
Today Retrofitted as Turner Field, the stadium was heralded by fans, but redevelopment of the surrounding area stalled. The Braves looked this Olympic gift horse in the mouth; they’re exiting for the burbs in 2017.

★★★
5 Georgia International Horse Park
Before the Games Undeveloped land in Rockdale County
During the Games Equestrian, mountain bike, modern pentathlon
Today The 1,400-acre park is used for festivals, equestrian events, and concerts. It’s also popular for weddings and reunions.

★★
6 Clayton County International Park
Before the Games “Atlanta Beach,” a privately owned park
During the Games Beach volleyball’s crowd-pleasing Olympic debut
Today The park offers tennis, pavilion rentals, beach access, and—of course—a chance to exercise your inner Karch Kiraly on one of 11 Olympic courts.

★★
7 Olympic Aquatic Center
Before the Games Thanks to $17 million from the state and Games organizers, Georgia Tech’s athletics complex was doubled with the addition of a (temporary) water polo facility and (permanent) competition pool.
During the Games Venue for diving, swimming, water polo, and synchronized swimming events
Today Houses a swimming and diving arena—and palatial digs named one of the “Coolest College Recreation Centers” in the U.S. by Men’s Health in 2014


8 Stone Mountain Tennis Center
Before the Games A corner of Stone Mountain Park
During the Games A $22 million tennis venue (Agassi won gold!)
Today Plagued by repair problems, the center flopped as a park attraction. It was shut down in 2007 and turned over to Gwinnett County in 2009.

Back to the 90s

This article originally appeared in our March 2015 issue.

Advertisement