ATLANTA -- One of the key men behind Atlanta’s 1996 Olympics says one of its remaining landmarks is “an embarrassment.” Former Atlanta mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young says the Olympic cauldron is his biggest regret from the games twenty years ago.
In 1996, it was the centerpiece of one of the most memorable of Olympic moments: when Muhammad Ali touched a torch to a mobile wick that shot up a wire and lit the cauldron, then located above Atlanta’s Olympic stadium.
But the cauldron itself got poor reviews for design – famously likened to a the shape of a McDonald’s French fry box. And the man who sold the world on Atlanta’s Olympic bid now says it was his biggest regret. Asked what he would have done differently, Young told 11Alive News, "I would have had John Portman do the Olympic flame. That’s one place we lost our nerve."
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John Portman is a hometown architect who designed several Atlanta hotel and office towers.
The cauldron to which Young refers now sits atop a tangle of steel separating downtown from Turner Field – and is part of the property Georgia State University is buying. Many of the images that forecast Georgia State’s development don’t even include the cauldron.
Young says Olympic organizers had been smarting from criticism of "Whatizit," a mascot produced from a computer design. "So they put a group of expert architects together in a team to design it and it looks like the bridge over the River Kwai. And nobody pays any attention to it and it’s an embarrassment," Young said.
But Young thinks the cauldron should continue to have a presence in Atlanta. "It’s still not too late. We could redo that," Young said. "Georgia State is moving over there. They can’t just leave it there. And maybe we can, for the 25th anniversary, re-conceptualize the Olympic flame."
Georgia State is due to take possession of the property at the end of this year.
PHOTOS: 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta