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Fountain of Rings: An Atlanta Icon

Fountain of Rings: An Atlanta Icon

By Morgan Smith-Williams

Almost 18 years ago Muhammad Ali stood before an exuberant crowd at Olympic Stadium in Atlanta with a flaming torch grasped in his right hand. Symbols of that magical summer evening and the 100th Summer Olympic Games that followed remain throughout the city today. One of the most visible symbols of those Olympics is the Fountain of Rings, the centerpiece of Centennial Olympic Park.  Since 1996, millions of people have visited this icon, the largest interactive fountain in the world.

The Beauty Of Form And Function
The fountain consists of the famous interconnected Olympic Rings, each 25 feet in diameter. Woven throughout the rings, 251 computer-controlled jets propel water 15-30 feet into the air. The fountain can be programmed with special announcements, as well as a variety of displays including low-pressure, walk-through water curtains, fog, and mist.

The fountain also has over 1,000 LED lights that make up the main above-ground features.

Underneath the fountain is a massive vault for pumps, filtration, and computer controls for operating the fountain and the choreographed shows. Centennial Olympic Park staff is always focused on keeping the Fountain of Rings green. About 5,000 gallons of water per minute are recycled through the fountain, enough to fill an average-size swimming pool in 5 minutes. The entire system is filtered once every 30 minutes, creating a consistently clean and eco-friendly entertainment. “Being resourceful is vital,” says Joe Skopitz, Assistant General Manager at the park. “We strive to conserve as much water as possible while creating a memorable experience for our guests.” The filters, called spin baskets, are cleaned daily, which during a busy season can be quite time-consuming. This cleaning maximizes water height and removes debris that falls into the water-recirculation system. Gum, earrings, bottle caps, leaves, and ponytail holders are only a few of the items that make their way into the system. Also, regular monitoring of chemical levels ensures that the correct number of additives is present. Because the fountain is designated a “zero-depth pool,” the water must be as clean as possible for the patrons’ safety.

Water, Music, And Lights
Admission to the Fountain of Rings is free, so children can be found enjoying the fountains nearly every day at the park. “The kids love the Fountain of Rings,” says Skopitz. Four times a day, the fountain comes to life with music. Water is shot into the air to the sounds of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” and The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” along with classics like the William Tell Overture and Chariots of Fire. At 9 p.m., the submersible color-changing light fixtures glow throughout the fountain, creating a vibrant display.

More than the 30-foot water blasts or the dazzling effects of the computer systems, what is special are the people. Since the first display of the Fountain of Rings almost 18 years ago, the community has gathered to enjoy a cool respite during the sizzling summer months in Atlanta.

Morgan Smith-Williams is the Communications Specialist for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority in Atlanta, Ga. Reach her at (404) 223-4000, or msmith-williams@gwcc.com.

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