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Spirit battered but not beaten

The worst fears of Olympic organizers came true Saturday as a pipe bomb filled with nails and screws exploded at a crowded concert, killing a woman and injuring more than 100 other people.

"I just can't understand anyone wanting to come here and disrupt this," said American 400-meter runner Jearl Miles. "If it's politically motivated, leave us out of it. We've worked so hard to be here. . . ."

Beyond the casualties, the bomb caused subtle ripples throughout Atlanta.

It fueled speculation about the spread of terrorism in the wake of the TWA disaster and the Marine bombing in Saudi Arabia.

It brought words of reassurance from experts who said the rudimentary nature of the explosive gave this bombing the earmarks of a loner without an agenda.

And it prompted the International Olympic Committee to quickly announce that the Games would go on. By morning, the athletes were running, leaping, rowing and doing what they do best before huge, animated crowds, everybody desperately wanting things to be back the way they were.

As much as everyone put on a brave front, this was no ordinary day _ not with security personnel toting machine guns in the grandstands; not with bomb scare after bomb scare leading to evacuation of a subway station, the boxing venue and the Underground Atlanta shopping area.

Since 1972 in Munich, the Olympics have not seen such a day.

It was a day, just 24 hours, but it felt like a week. From the terror of a pipe bomb in the middle of the night to the triumphs on the Olympic track in the evening, this was Day 9 at the Summer Olympics.

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At 1:07 a.m., a caller from a pay phone told a 911 operator there would be an explosion in Centennial Olympic Park in 30 minutes.

About the same time, a band was on stage in the park. Security guards were called to the rear of the concert crowd, where spectators were throwing beer cans. A police officer saw a suspicious-looking leather knapsack nearby.

Police moved spectators back, and bomb-squad experts examined the bag. They saw three pipes inside. Before everybody could be moved farther away, the bomb exploded. It had been 18 minutes since the caller had phoned his warning.

Packed with nails and screws, the bomb sent shrapnel hurtling as far as 100 yards.

People weren't sure what happened. Was it fireworks?

Then a voice came over the loudspeaker: "People, please, leave the park. There is no reason to panic." The people left, police, ambulances and helicopters came.

The bomb killed Alice Hawthorne, 44, a cable TV company receptionist from Albany, Ga. Her 14-year-old daughter, Fallon, who had been standing with her in the park, was hospitalized with arm and leg wounds.

An indirect casualty was Turkish camera man, Melih Uzunyol, 40, who has a history of heart disease. He suffered a heart attack while running to film the explosion's aftermath.

Doctors said most of the 111 injured suffered minor wounds, shock or fractures; 11 were hospitalized, all in stable condition. All athletes were safe.

Within hours, the decision was made. Said International Olympic Committee director Francois Carrard: "Buses are rolling. The athletes have been notified. The Games will go on."

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At first light, Centennial Olympic Park was empty, except for people with ATF and FBI across their backs. There was yellow police tape and scores of tiny pink flags in the ground, each marking where a piece of steel had been found. Bloodstained sidewalk. The sound of National Guardsmen boots moving down the street.

Then it was time for the games. All 18 sports scheduled for Saturday went ahead, rowing, handball, beach volleyball, diving, boxing . . . .

Many started late because competitors were delayed by stepped-up security.

"I would like to kick the guy's butt who did this," said Matt Ghaffari, an American wrestler and silver medal winner.

When people remember the Atlanta Olympics, Ghaffari said, "They're not going to remember the medals we won; they're going to remember this is the place where they had the terrorist attack."

Military personnel were evident at the tennis competition; soldiers carrying machine guns were posted at checkpoints at the rowing competition on Lake Lanier.

The pipe bomb prompted threats of others.

One of the city's busiest underground train stations, Five Points, was evacuated because of a bomb threat. The Alexander Memorial Coliseum, scene of the boxing competition, was evacuated because of continued bomb threats.

A black nylon bag, left momentarily unattended, prompted the relocation of about 100 fans at a beach volleyball match until its owner re-appeared.

A suspicious package that prompted officials to evacuate Underground Atlanta, a downtown shopping mall, turned out to be an iron with a cord around it with a thermometer attached.

Tougher security measures were put into place around the venues, and lines grew longer. "We must go into a different mode, a much more heightened sense of awareness," said Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell.

Outside Centennial Olympic Stadium, where 85,000 people were leaving morning track and field competition, reactions to the bombing fell into two categories: Visitors to town, who said they had too much time, money and emotions invested in the Games to leave because of a bomb; and Atlantans, angry that the bomb might tarnish the city's image during the big show.

Atlantans have looked forward for six years to these two weeks.

"It makes me mad. We're already getting bashed around because a few buses were late, and now this," said Valerie Jurjevich, 16, of Lilburn, an Atlanta suburb. "It's terrible that someone died, but you can't protect everyone. The police did their job and I know there won't be another one."

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As the day wore on and competition resumed in earnest at the Olympic Stadium and more than a dozen other venues, the party mood of the Games returned.

Only in the once-jammed downtown streets near the now-silent Centennial Olympic Park was the difference truly noticeable _ and that was only in the numbers.

There was no indication when the park, the jumble of high-tech corporate pavilions and tawdry carnival fare, would reopen.

"I'd go to the park if it opened tonight," said Mike Wilson of Cleveland. "I have a lot of faith in the system they have in place to take care of this. It seems like an amateur thing, not a van-parked-in-front-of-a-building kind of scenario."

And Janeen DeVita of Fort Myers said: "It's like going on an airplane. Once they've done the bomb thing, I don't think they're going to do it again."

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Among theories of who might have planted the bomb were these: a deranged individual, attracted by the international glare of the Olympics; a homegrown paramilitary group; skinhead groups, reportedly near the park Friday night.

Back in April, federal agents raided the rural Georgia home of two militia men, confiscating 10 pipe bombs. A report surfaced that the bombs were being stockpiled for potential Olympic targets, but officials discounted that theory.

J.J. Johnson, a Macon man who says he is spokesman for the Georgia Republic Militia, said militia members are as outraged as other Americans about the bombing.

"We wouldn't tolerate anyone violating the spirit of the Olympics," Johnson said.

Investigators released nothing of substance that pointed to anybody.

The use of a rudimentary bomb would make it less likely that the attack was carried out by international extremist groups. International groups, they say, are more likely to use something that would give a bigger bang, such as dynamite or ammonium nitrate mixed with fuel oil, which was used in the World Trade Center bombing.

Larry Preston Williams, a New Orleans security consultant, said the bomb points to the work of a loner. The park was picked for its accessibility and easy exit.

"My thought would be that if it were an organized group _ a hate group or a right-wing extremist group _ that bomb would have probably had greater mass," Williams said.

Brian Levin, past associate director of Klanwatch and associate professor of criminal justice at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, N.J., said the kind of person who would plant this bomb is someone "whose warped sensibilities are such that they can target people because it fulfills some sick kind of perverse thrill _ they get some kind of sick enjoyment out of it."

Officials said they were taking fingerprints from the pay telephone where the 911 called was made, and looking for anyone who might have seen someone make the call.

The FBI established a toll free number _ (800) 905-1514 _ to take information on the case. Investigators were especially interested in any photos or videos taken in the area before the explosion.

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When the Olympic Games opened, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch welcomed the world and implored nations to put down their weapons and join in the spirit of sport.

The unenviable task of waking Samaranch at 3 a.m. with news of the bombing fell to Francois Carrard, director general of the Olympic Committee.

"We are living in a society," Carrard said, sadness in his Gallic voice, "in which violence and violent acts are not absent."

_ Reporters Chuck Murphy, Jeff Brainard, Terry Tomalin, Babita Persaud and Gary Shelton contributed to this story, which also includes material from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Times wires.

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