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  • How the Atlanta Olympics Made My University Great -- OpEd


    (ATR) Georgia State University has an unmatched Olympic legacy and continues to embody Atlanta’s Olympic legacy.

    Part of GSU's campus in Downtown Atlanta. (GSU)
    Twenty years on, my alma mater is about to add another venue to its vast use of Atlanta’s Olympic history.

    As anyone who has met me knows, I’m quick to inform people that Georgia State University is the world’s best university. Had the 1996 Olympics not come to my hometown, it’s doubtful that GSU could have become the school it is now.

    Our transformation happened because we housed the world’s Olympians for two weeks.

    Prior to 1996, GSU was a commuter school and often an afterthought for Georgia’s graduating high school students.

    But it’s no stretch to say the Village obliterated that notion.

    Post-Games, GSU acquired the Village and converted it into student housing. GSU was finally able to say “no—we are a real school; just look at our dorms.” Attracting traditional students dramatically increased the caliber of incoming freshman who desired a true college experience. (The dorms, while technically providing “on-campus housing”, are two miles from GSU, and in 2007, the Village was sold to Georgia Tech which is right across the street from the compound).

    The 1996 Olympic Village waiting for the world's best athletes. (ATR)
    Badminton during the Olympics and goalball during the Paralympics were held at GSU’s Sports Arena, providing much-needed investment to our only campus sport facility and beginning a slow push to serious, competent intercollegiate athletics department. The sports arena even had a cameo role in athletics—marathoners rushed past en route to the finish line at the stadium.

    That slow push enabled GSU to purchase Atlanta 96’s crown jewel: Centennial Olympic Stadium.

    Atlanta’s professional baseball team the Braves were the tenant of the stadium, which was converted for baseball and renamed Turner Field, but a move to the suburbs left the facility without a tenant. Enter GSU.

    Our football team played home games at the Georgia Dome (another example of GSU using a venue from the Games), but a need for our own home venue and more student housing had us buy the only nearby large parcel of land in locked-in Downtown Atlanta.GSU plans to re-convert the stadium for football and will more-closely hew to the original design when it was the Olympic Stadium.

    Even better: baseball will once again be played at the 96 baseball venue with the land purchase. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was torn down when the Braves moved to Turner Field and converted into a parking lot. The Panthers will now use that site as a baseball stadium.

    The Olympic Cauldron will be part of GSU's campus as it redevelops Turner Field. (ATR)
    And the cauldron? That’s going to become GSU’s too.

    While the final design of the Turner Field parcel has not been publicized, the cauldron and stadiums are said to form part of a heritage walk for GSU—which should further emphasize GSU’s Olympic connections.

    Having six marquee Olympic sights as part of its history puts GSU in unmatched territory.

    The only two schools that can match GSU’s connections are UCLA and USC—both in Los Angeles and both of which have far more medalists than GSU (as in, more than zero) and yet fewer Olympic venues as part of their campus.

    On a more personal level, had the Olympics not gone to Atlanta, it’s unlikely I would have become a Panther. I likely would not have stayed in Atlanta and I almost assuredly would not have started working for Around the Rings and it’s statistically impossible I would be working in the Olympic Movement.

    To see the full photo gallery, click here.

    For me, GSU’s Olympic legacy is very personal and molded my future far more than I could have imagined.

    Written by Edward Hula III

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