Ashley’s column a couple of weeks ago about her Olympic memories, as well as the London Olympics that started last weekend, stirred up some of my Olympic memories as well.
The first one came with the realization of just how old I am compared to Ashley! She said in 1996 she was 12 years old and remembers standing in the crowd along the streets as the Olympic torch was carried through Griffin on its way to Atlanta. In 1996 I was 39 and working for the Jackson Progress-Argus in Butts County. There was a Butts County teen chosen to run part of the torch route, and as luck would have it, his portion was through Griffin. So I was also in the crowd that night, although I was there to get a photo of him running with the torch. Who knows, I may have also gotten a photo of two “dorky” girls in matching t-shirts that said “I saw the flame.”
Having worked in and around Atlanta growing up, I knew the downtown area would be packed solid during the Olympics, so we pretty much stayed away from “the big city” during the Olympics, although Becky and I did venture down there one night when there were no events going on. We saw Centennial Olympic Park with its squirting fountains of water coming out of the pavement. It was the first time we had seen anything like that, but as far as I’m concerned, that park has nothing on our own Greatest Generation Park with its squirting fountains.
We also bought a bunch of Olympic pins from various vendors around the park. I remember at least one vendor with a Jamaican accent, but we shied away from the expensive pins and besides, I didn’t have a 12-year-old daughter with me that I could sell out for a UPS pin, like Ashley’s mom did.
We also saw the Olympic swim team from Canada walking back to the Olympic Village after having eaten out. We watched several different people stop them to have their picture taken with the team, but I’ve never been into having my picture taken period, much less with a bunch of people I don’t know.
But my favorite Olympic memory happened far from downtown Atlanta and didn’t involve any pins or athletes. Indian Springs State Park in Butts County is known not only for its awful sulfur smelling natural spring water that some people swear will cure anything, but also for the non-smelly stream flowing over stepped rocks at the front of the park. Like the river at Sprewell Bluff is here, the creek at Indian Springs is a popular spot to cool off, sitting on the rocks and letting the water flow around you.
There was a group of German teenagers on a tour for the Olympics. They were staying somewhere on the south side of Atlanta and had heard about Indian Springs and came down for a day. I went out and got photos and talked to a few of them. Despite being able to watch the Olympic Games, after being in all the crowds and noise of downtown Atlanta, they said being able to cool off in the quiet stream was one of the best things they had done on their trip.
It just goes to show you don’t have to be high class and glitzy like Atlanta to become a fond memory for visitors.