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Ramblin’ to Paris Pt. 4: 1996 Olympic Events at Georgia Tech

The CRC and Alexander Memorial Coliseum

The Olympic pool on Georgia Tech’s campus, still in operation today
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Welcome to part 4 of 30 of my Ramblin’ to Paris series. Check out last week’s piece where we dug into the history of Georgia Tech athletes participating in the Olympics. Today’s piece is sponsored by Tech alumni and Travelmation travel agent, Nicolas Santine.

An Implosive Intro

Eleven different venues were used at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics inside the I-285 perimeter, all within a tight diameter stretching from Summerhill to Tech’s midtown campus. Three of those locations no longer exist: the Georgia Dome, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and the Omni Coliseum, all cleared out by implosions (A-FCS and Omni within a week of each other) to make way for replacement facilities.

Alexander Memorial Coliseum is the only location to not “exist” anymore but still be standing since it was renovated into McCamish Pavilion for the 2013 basketball season.

Tech’s Three Athletic Venues

Georgia Tech’s campus played host to three venues supporting six different sports. Alexander Memorial did not host basketball like it normally did, but instead was the home of boxing for the games.

Alexander Memorial Coliseum
LaPayne Photography

The Georgia Tech Aquatic Center had two standing venues and three different pools within its complex used in competition. The swimming lanes and diving well still exist today as one the most famous and still operated locations from 1996, which were additionally used for synchronized swimming and modern pentathlon. Outside the main pool was another fully outdoor structure housing the water polo pool.

Sky view of the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center circa 1996

The picture above (which can be seen at Tech’s Campus Recreation Center) fascinated me when I first saw it, as I honestly thought they played water polo in the diving well. But no, there was a whole separate venue adjacent to the Aquatic Center that sat where currently the SAC Fields and the sidewalk are where water polo took place.

The pyramid roofed structure sat mostly where there’s grass, but also some where the main workout floor of the CRC is. The pool to the left of the main building was later enclosed and changed to include hot tubs and a water slide. The temporary bleachers on the righthand side of the image are where now a parking deck lives.

Results At Tech

I won’t list out all the swimming & diving results (if you want to dig around, has full results), but of note, the U.S. won gold in the 100 Backstroke (M: Jeff Rouse, W: Beth Botsford), Women’s 100 Butterfly (Amy Van Dyken), Men’s 200 Backstroke (Brad Bridgewater), Men’s 400 IM (Tom Dolan), every relay (4 x 100 Freestyle, 4 x 200 Freestyle, 4 x 100 Medley, men’s and women’s), Women’s 50 Freestyle (Amy Van Dyken), and Women’s 800 Freestyle (Brooke Bennett).

In Water Polo (only men participated), the U.S. finished 7th. Spain, Croatia, and Italy took gold/silver/bronze respectively. The gold was Spain’s second consecutive medal in the event.

The U.S. won gold in team synchronized swimming, the debut Olympics for that event. The Duet competition was not part of the programme in Atlanta.

Modern Pentathlon saw significant changes to the event compared to most of the previous versions. Before 1996, the event would take place over the course of a few days to complete all five events (épeé fencing, 300 meter freestyle, show jumping, pistol shooting, and cross country). In Atlanta, the event was consolidated to a single day, pistol shooting converted to air pistols for the first time in the Olympics, and the team event was removed from the programme.

In the pool, the only portion to take place at Tech, János Martinek (Hungary), Igor Warabida (Poland), and Richard Phelps (Great Britain) all received 1,100 points, the most won by any athlete in that stage of the pentahlon.

Alexander Parygin of Kazakhstan ended up winning the whole event, a big win as it was the first summer games where Kazakhstan participated under their own flag. Kazakhstan also won gold in men’s light-heavyweight boxing (Vasilii Jirov) and Greco-Roman 57kg Wrestling (Yuriy Melnichenko).

Moving to boxing, there were 12 different boxing weight classes included, ranging from light flyweight (48kg) to super heavyweight (91+ kg). Boxing doesn’t run bronze medal matches, so each event had a gold medalist, silver medalist, and two bronze medalists.

David Reid was the only American to win gold in boxing (light middleweight). Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Featherweight), Terrance Cauthen (lightweight), Rhoshii Wells (middleweight), Antonio Tarver (light heavyweight), and Nate Jones (heavyweight) all won bronzes in their weight classes. Cuba finished with the most boxing medals with seven (four golds).

The Venues Now

At least at Tech, the facilities used for the 1996 Olympics have stayed very relevant to the lifestyle of students on campus and others in Atlanta mainly because of the Campus Recreation Center, along with Alexander Memorial after it became McCamish Pavilion.

After the CRC was enclosed in 2003, the pool has hosted all of the state’s preminent youth and high school swim meets between club and school competitions, hosted the ACC and NCAA Championships, and has served as a training facility for U.S. Olympians training for later games.

The whole CRC itself is a massive building, one of the most used on campus along with the John Lewis Student Center, Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, and basically any building that has classes or labs in it. Swim Atlanta has used McCauley Aquatic Center as one of its training locations and has run meets in the building which last year featured Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel. The weight training area in the front of the building is routinely overrun with students, along with the raquetball courts.

When the CRC was fully renovated, an athletics gym was built on top of the pool with an indoor hockey/soccer court, six full sized basketball courts, multiple studio rooms, a jogging track, and space for rowing/cycling machines with one of the best elevated views into downtown Atlanta one can get.

As mentioned in our Comprehensive Campus Plan episode of Scions of the Southland, we may be about to see the next big change to the CRC space, as the needs to serve the student population are effectively double what its current capacity is.

What I’ve yet to mention but is just as important as the rest of these buildings are the North Avenue Apartments, built to be the Olympic Village during the games. Tech did not initially inherit the buildings. They went to Georgia State to become their first buildings for on campus housing called GSU Village. The apartments would not be used by Tech until 2007 when GSU and GT agreed to let them become Tech housing instead of State housing. Since then, it has been Tech’s highest density housing complex on campus and is home to the end of Midnight Bud during finals and a dining hall.

If you were at any of the events on campus or saw the construction of the pools, I’d love to hear the stories! That side of campus has been home to some of the biggest and best changes to Tech recently, and there’s more coming in the near future.

Jack Purdy is a non-revenue sports writer and co-host of Scions of the Southland for From the Rumble Seat. He previously served as The Technique’s assistant sports editor before graduating Georgia Tech in 2022. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackNicolaus

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