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At 17th Anniversary, Olympics' Impact Still Astounds

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Call it serendipitous, or a stroke of intuitive Google mastery, but an unrelated Internet search has produced some thought-provoking images of Atlanta before and during the 1996 Summer Olympics — on the very week that city-altering event started 17 years ago. Sometimes lost in our collective memories of regrettable mascots and horrific explosions is just how much the games transformed downtown Atlanta, as illustrated by this March 1995 cover of The Atlanta Constitution (back when this was a two-newspaper town). The 21-acre tract that would become Centennial Olympic Park was just beginning to be cleared — with a mere 493 days until the ceremonial torch-lighting. Elsewhere, downtown appears to be a much more sparse collection of surface parking lots and towering spires.

The above photo depicts a teaming, temporary city risen from the rubble of what used to occupy the Centennial Olympic Park area. The Games of the XXVI Olympiad consumed Atlanta and other parts of Georgia from July 19 to August 4, 1996. What are your most indelible memories of this important era in the city's history?

[March 14, 1995 Atlanta Constitution image via Tumblr; aerial image via Georgia World Congress Center]