’88 days of hell’: How the 1996 Olympic bombing hero was turned into a villain

In the immediate aftermath of the bomb exploding, security guard Richard Jewell was a hero.

When the 33-year-old discovered the khaki green military-style backpack containing the device – a pipe bomb weighing at least 18kg that would turn out to be the biggest of its kind ever seen by the FBI at the time – he did everything he had been trained to do.

It was 12.55am, Saturday 27 July 1996. In the early hours of that morning, about 50,000 people were gathered at the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia, celebrating the previous day’s sporting achievements at a concert. With the Olympics in full swing, this might easily have turned out to be one of the worst terror attacks in US history.

A law enforcement officer peers into the crater caused by a bomb blast in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park early July 27, tearing apart an audio tower at rear and killing at least two people and injuring dozens
Image:This image shows the crater caused by the bomb blast in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park on 27 July 1996

After raising the alarm, Jewell, with the help of other guards, began evacuating the immediate area. Unbeknown to him, at 12.58am a 911 warning call had also been made from a payphone: “There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have 30 minutes.”

But there wasn’t time to stop it.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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