ATLANTA -- Armed with composite sketches of possible suspects, federal investigators continued the search for the Olympic bomber yesterday, as officials announced plans to reopen Centennial Olympic Park, site of the blast that rocked the world's biggest sporting event.
Fresh Georgia National Guard troops also prepared to pour into the city, while the Centennial Summer Games tried to regain a sense of security in the wake of Saturday morning's explosion that left two dead and injured 111.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators also attended the Games, enduring long waits at security barricades before enjoying events as diverse as the women's marathon and table tennis.
Chief Olympic organizer Billy Payne said the crowds were "incredible and patient . . . determined not to allow acts of cowardice to ruin events."
"I'm going back to the park and back to the Games," said Drew Fenwick, a 32-year-old native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who was nearby when Alice S. Hawthorne, of Albany, Ga., was killed in the blast.
Fenwick said he saw Hawthorne smiling before she dropped in a cloud of smoke.
"All I heard was screaming and yelling," he said.
Investigators say the chief suspect in the pipe bomb attack remains a white male with no distinguishable American accent.
They say they were able to produce composite sketches based on accounts of eyewitnesses, but declined to release the sketches to the public.
A bomb threat was phoned in to Atlanta's 911 emergency service minutes before the blast. FBI spokesman David Tubbs said "the assumption is pretty strong" that the person who placed the call Saturday at 1: 07 a.m. from a pay phone two blocks from the park also left the pipe bomb that detonated at 1: 25 a.m.
The man did not specify where in the park he had left the bomb.
His final words to the 911 operator were: "You have 30 minutes."
And then he hung up.
Atlanta police initially dispatched an officer to the phone -- instead of to the park. Police have been inundated with dozens of bomb hoax calls in recent weeks. And the caller also did not provide a specific location of the bomb.
Beverly Harvard, chief of Atlanta police, said: "I don't believe the park police ever learned that the call had come in." Officials added the frequency of bomb threats had increased, as an increasingly jittery public has spotted unattended baggage and called for police action.
Tubbs said: "No one has claimed responsibility for the crime. We have not had any call-ins or anything of that type at all."
Asked if the FBI had developed a list of groups that could be responsible for the blast, Tubbs said: "We have not yet determined if it was a group or an individual or if the group was domestic or international. It would be premature to discuss the actual origins of the explosion."
Leaders of a right-wing Georgia militia group denied any knowledge of the attack during a news conference in Macon yesterday. Three of the group's members were arrested in April for conspiracy to make pipe bombs.
Tubbs said federal investigators had received 600 calls from the public since the blast. He said investigators were reviewing photographs and videos made at Centennial Olympic Park. Four video surveillance cameras covered the site of the blast, at the base of a sound and light tower near a stage.
"We are confident we will solve this horrible crime," he said.
Meanwhile, Olympic organizers said they will reopen the park tomorrow, under tighter security.
They said law enforcement in the park will be doubled and observation points and technology -- presumably security cameras -- will be increased.
The officials declined to provide details. They added random bag searches also will be undertaken.
Security efforts criticized
Organizers have been criticized for the security precautions taken at the 21-acre park, which is ringed with corporate pavilions and is the main meeting point for hundreds of thousands of spectators.
Unlike at the Olympic venues, where spectators have to pass through metal detectors, fans merely passed through gates to get into the park.
"The park was intended as a public gathering place," said Payne, president of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.
"It is impossible to eliminate all the risks inherent in the running of public spaces," he said. "No, I do not think we made a mistake in planning how to run the park."
Despite ACOG's insistence that its security arrangements for fans were adequate, organizers of future Games said yesterday they are looking closely at their security plans.
"We have lots to learn from that incident," said Akira Hashimoto, spokesman for the 1998 Winter Games to be held in Nagano, Japan.
"The lesson that we learn here is: How do we secure the people? Not only in the Olympic venues, but outside the venues. We have to carry out proper protection of the public."
Richard Palfreyman, spokesman for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, said the attack "was a gruesome reminder that things like this can and do happen."
"You have to ask yourself, how far can a city go to guarantee security?" he said. "You can't guard against every eventuality. There is a point where you do not want to turn an Olympic host city into an armed camp. You have to take sensible precautions and avoid making the Olympic city inhospitable."
Atlanta apparently is taking those precautions with the addition of security personnel.
The Georgia state government said it will deploy "a few hundred" National Guard infantry, joining 4,000 other guardsmen.
There are already some 30,000 local, state and federal security forces on site.
The White House said yesterday there are 900 FBI agents assigned to the Olympics.
Pub Date: 7/29/96