A quarter of a century later, 1996 Olympic softball competition left legacy in Georgia

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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — As the 2020 Tokyo Games open this weekend in Japan, WRBL News 3 will look back a quarter of a century.

That’s when the Games were in Columbus at Golden Park for the 1996 Olympic softball competition.

It was a special time in our city and one worth remembering.

Just 25 years ago this week, the United States was in pool play on the way to the Gold Medal in the first-ever Olympic softball competition and the Golden Park was in rare form.

Softball teams from Japan, Australia, China, Puerto Rico, Canada and the Netherlands were here. And it was a party.

Ask Robin Trimarchi, a retired Ledger-Enquirer photographer who worked every game over nine days.

“It was so much fun,” she said. “… It was like the stadium developed its own personality. … It became apparent Columbus was hosting an international party at Golden Park for eight days.”

Trimarchi would know. A Nebraska transplant. she had been in town five months when she drew the assignment of a lifetime.

“Somehow this sleepy little city in the middle of the South – and to me it was in the middle of nowhere – just created this amazing, amazing environment that people responded to in a magnificent way,” Trimarchi said.

It was her first real taste of Southern hospitality.

“It was just the most friendly, loving atmosphere,” she said, laughing. “You could not have been around it and not just smiled.”

While Trimarchi walked in on the games at the last minute, Richard Bishop was one of the city employees charged with making all the magic happen.

Columbus came into the Olympic picture late, three years before the start of the Games.

“There was a recognition that we were a ‘We can get it done community,’ through public-private partnerships, and that played out very strong in our application, our proposal to bring the Games to Columbus,” Bishop said.

Bishop credits Carmen Cavezza, a retired three-star general who ran the city’s Olympic effort with the success.

And that success led to a legacy that includes The Columbus Sports Council, a Quasi-governmental agency that recruits athletic competitions to the city.

“How many cities in the world can say they were a venue for an Olympic sport?’ Bishop asked. “In one sense, that’s a pretty good legacy. But there’s a number of legacies.”

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