In the hours after the Centennial Olympic Park bomb had forever
scarred the Centennial Olympic Games, athletes from all corners
of the globe--small ones who play badminton, big ones who
wrestle and every size in between--shared one attitude: defiance.
"We have to fight terrorism," said Michael Keck, a badminton
player from Germany. "If you stop the Games or let this act
interfere with the Games, the terrorist wins. We as athletes and
all the nations of the world cannot let that happen."
Said Greco-Roman wrestler and silver medalist Matt Ghaffari of
the U.S., "If I could find the guy who did this, I promise you
I'd kick his butt. No way can we let an idiot stop the Olympics."
None of the more than two dozen athletes canvassed by SI thought
the Games should be called off. Some were on their own
competitive planets, oblivious to the biggest story in the
world. U.S. table tennis player Jim Butler didn't even know
about the blast until he was told of it by a reporter. Distance
runner Phylis Smith of Great Britain just shrugged and said,
"Something like this, we dismiss it."
July 27, 1996
Many athletes, including table tennis player Tarik Hodzik of
Bosnia and Herzegovina, felt pangs of anxiety. "I'm tired of
hearing about people dying," Hodzik said, mindful of the
senseless killing in his homeland. "But I was obliged to play
today, and I had to try to block out what happened."
All U.S. athletes are asked to carry beepers, and according to
Ghaffari they got the following message at 1:30 a.m.: CALL AND
CHECK IN WITH YOUR TEAM LEADER IMMEDIATELY. Then return to the
Village at once. Each delegation located its athletes, and many
conducted spot bed checks. No country reported having an athlete
injured in the blast or in the ensuing pandemonium.
Still, the explosion left many athletes on edge. "I don't feel
very secure," said Marie-Jose Perec of France, a favorite in the
women's 400 meters. "In our minds we are not at peace. This
morning it was difficult. I don't feel well yet."
For others it was business as usual. "I am here to practice and
play," said Susi Susanti, a badminton star from Indonesia. "We
are not supposed to worry about security, and I am not.
Everywhere I look, there is security."
In the aftermath of the explosion yesterday morning, Ghaffari
walked the streets. He stopped two blocks from the bomb site,
looking down at the mass of police lights and mobilized officers
in fatigues. "You think this can't happen in America, but you
can't hide," he said. "The thing I hate is, just like when you
think of the Munich Olympics you think of terrorism, when you
think of the Atlanta Olympics you'll think of the bomb in