Centennial Olympic Park bombing

Centennial Olympic Park bombing
Centennial Park bombing

Shrapnel mark on Olympic Park sculpture
Location Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Coordinates 33°45′41″N 84°23′33″W / 33.76152°N 84.39255°W / 33.76152; -84.39255Coordinates: 33°45′41″N 84°23′33″W / 33.76152°N 84.39255°W / 33.76152; -84.39255
Date July 27, 1996
1:20 am (UTC-5)
Target Centennial Olympic Park
Attack type bombing
Death(s) 2
Injured 111
Perpetrator(s) Eric Robert Rudolph

The Centennial Olympic Park bombing was a terrorist bombing on July 27, 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia, United States during the 1996 Summer Olympics, the first of four committed by Eric Robert Rudolph.[1] Two people died, and 111 were injured.



Centennial Olympic Park was designed as the "town square" of the Olympics, and thousands of spectators had gathered for a late concert by the band Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. Sometime after midnight, Rudolph planted a green U.S. military ALICE pack (field pack) containing three pipe bombs surrounded by nails underneath a bench near the base of a concert sound tower. He then left the area. The pack had a directed charge and could have done more damage but it was slightly moved at some point.[2] It was the largest pipe bomb in U.S. history, weighing in excess of 40 pounds.[citation needed] It used a steel plate as a directional device.[3] Investigators were later to tie the Sandy Springs and Otherside bombs together with this first device because all were propelled by nitroglycerin dynamite, used an alarm clock and Rubbermaid containers, and contained steel plates.[4]

Security guard Richard Jewell discovered the bag and alerted Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers; 9 minutes later, Rudolph called 911 to deliver a warning.[citation needed] Jewell and other security guards began clearing the immediate area so that a bomb squad could investigate the suspicious package. At 1:20 AM, the bomb exploded.[citation needed]

Alice Hawthorne from Albany, Georgia, was killed by a nail that struck her in the head.[citation needed] The bomb wounded 111 others. Turkish cameraman Melih Uzunyol died from a heart attack he suffered while running to cover the blast.[citation needed]


As the park reopened following the bombing.

President Bill Clinton denounced the explosion as an "evil act of terror" and vowed to do everything possible to track down and punish those responsible.[5] At the White House, Clinton said, "We will spare no effort to find out who was responsible for this murderous act. We will track them down. We will bring them to justice."[6]

Despite the event, officials and athletes agreed that the games should continue as planned. The crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island (at the time, considered a possible terrorist attack), which had occurred just 10 days earlier on July 17, 1996, was likewise not considered a reason to postpone the games.[7]

Richard Jewell falsely implicated

Though Richard Jewell was hailed as a hero for his role in discovering the bomb and moving spectators to safety, four days after the bombing, news organizations reported that Jewell was considered a potential suspect in the bombing. Jewell, at the time, was unknown to authorities, and a lone wolf profile made sense to FBI investigators after being contacted by his former employer at Piedmont College.

Though he was never arrested or named as more than a "person of interest", Jewell's home, where he lived with his mother, was searched and his background exhaustively investigated, all amid a media storm that had cameras following him to the grocery store. Eventually, Jewell was exonerated, and once again hailed as a hero.

After his exoneration, Jewell filed a series of lawsuits against the media outlets which he claimed had libeled him, primarily NBC News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and insisted on a formal apology from them. Jewell's attorneys contend Piedmont College President Raymond Cleere called the FBI and spoke to the Atlanta newspapers, providing them with false information on Jewell and his employment there as a security guard. Jewell's lawsuit accused Cleere of describing Jewell as a "badge-wearing zealot" who "would write epic police reports for minor infractions."[8]

Eric Robert Rudolph

After Jewell was cleared, the FBI admitted it had no other suspects, and the investigation made little progress until early 1997, when two more bombings took place at an abortion clinic and a lesbian nightclub, both in the Atlanta area. Similarities in the bomb design allowed investigators to conclude that this was the work of the same perpetrator. One more bombing of an abortion clinic, this time in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed a policeman working as a security guard and seriously injured nurse Emily Lyons, gave the FBI crucial clues including a partial license plate.

The plate and other clues led the FBI to identify Eric Robert Rudolph as a suspect. Rudolph eluded capture and became a fugitive; officials believed he had disappeared into the rugged southern Appalachian Mountains, familiar from his youth. On May 5, 1998, the FBI named him as one of its ten most wanted fugitives and offered a $1,000,000 reward for information leading directly to his arrest. On October 14, 1998, the Department of Justice formally named Rudolph as its suspect in all four bombings.

After more than five years on the run, Rudolph was arrested on May 31, 2003, in Murphy, North Carolina. On April 8, 2005, the government announced Rudolph would plead guilty to all four bombings, including the Centennial Olympic Park attack.

Rudolph is serving four life terms without the possibility of parole at ADX Florence supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. To be spared a possible death sentence, Rudolph agreed to a deal with federal prosecutors and revealed the whereabouts of dangerous explosives he buried in Cherokee County, N.C.[9]

Rudolph's justification for the bombings according to his April 13, 2005 statement, was political:[10]

In the summer of 1996, the world converged upon Atlanta for the Olympic Games. Under the protection and auspices of the regime in Washington millions of people came to celebrate the ideals of global socialism. Multinational corporations spent billions of dollars, and Washington organized an army of security to protect these best of all games. Even though the conception and purpose of the so-called Olympic movement is to promote the values of global socialism, as perfectly expressed in the song Imagine by John Lennon, which was the theme of the 1996 Games even though the purpose of the Olympics is to promote these despicable ideals, the purpose of the attack on July 27 was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.
The plan was to force the cancellation of the Games, or at least create a state of insecurity to empty the streets around the venues and thereby eat into the vast amounts of money invested.

On August 22, 2005, Rudolph, who had previously received a life sentence for the Alabama bombing, was sentenced to three concurrent terms of life imprisonment without parole for the Georgia incidents. Rudolph read a statement at his sentencing in which he apologized to the victims and families only of the Centennial Park bombing, reiterating that he was angry at the government and hoped the Olympics would be canceled. At his sentencing, fourteen other victims or relatives gave statements, including the widower of Alice Hawthorne.

See also


  1. ^ "Eric Rudolph lays out the arguments that fueled his two-year bomb attacks"; By Doug Gross; ASSOCIATED PRESS; SignonSanDiego.com by the Union-Tribune; April 14, 2005 [1]
  2. ^ Brenner, Marie (1997-02). "American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell". Vanity Fair. http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/archive/1997/02/brenner199702. Retrieved 2011-10-7. 
  3. ^ "Cnn Presents". CNN. February 7, 2001. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0206/15/cp.00.html. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  4. ^ http://www.orlandoweekly.com/util/printready.asp?id=10931
  5. ^ "Clinton pledges thorough effort to find Olympic park bomber". CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/US/9607/27/blast.clinton/. Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
  6. ^ http://fdsys.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/WCPD-1996-08-05/pdf/WCPD-1996-08-05-Pg1349-2.pdf
  7. ^ "Despite explosion 'The games will go on'". CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/US/9607/27/blast.games/index.html. Retrieved 2007-02-08. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Ex-Suspect in Bombing Sues Newspapers, College; Jewell's Libel Claim Seeks Unspecified Damages". The Washington Post. 1997-01-29. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-712062.html. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  9. ^ "Many remember Rudolph saga"; by Clarke Morrison ; Asheville CITIZEN-TIMES • published May 31, 2008 12:15 am [2]
  10. ^ "Full Text of Eric Rudolph's Confession : NPR". NPR (National Public Radio). 2005-04-14. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4600480. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 

External links

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