Olympic Torch Heads for Metro Atlanta
NEWNAN, Ga. (AP) _ The Olympic Torch today was carried through this west Georgia city, which boasts of its survival from the flames of the Civil War.
The torch was carried through historic downtown and neighborhoods built in the 1860s, ending with a ceremony in a city park.
Residents boast that Newnan was spared the fate Atlanta suffered when Gen. William Sherman set the future Olympic city ablaze.
``This is the biggest thing to come through here since Sherman,″ said Newnan native Wilma Wilson, 77.
The torch began its trek to metro Atlanta at sunrise today with greetings from 5,000 people at the LaGrange town square and a children’s choir singing ``I am part of everything. I am a citizen of this world.″
The torch capped off an Olympic experience for LaGrange, which has hosted nearly 500 athletes, mostly from Africa, said businessman Pete Gordon.
The experience has ``helped us overcome barriers that normally keep nations apart,″ Gordon said. ``These athletes came here as ambassadors of their countries and they leave as ambassadors for us.″
This morning’s relay began early in Franklin, population 900, where 10,000 people jammed the town square for an all-night party.
Scheduled stops today included, Newnan, Fayetteville, Jonesboro and McDonough.
The torch will arrive early Thursday in Stone Mountain, just east of Atlanta. It will enter the Atlanta city limits Thursday night and be carried into the Olympic Stadium Friday night for the opening ceremony of the games.
Leaders from three Cherokee tribes praised the relay as a symbol of peace Tuesday when the run stopped in New Echota, the former capital of the Cherokee Nation.
About 15,000 Cherokee who lived in north Georgia and parts of Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina were forced from their homes 158 years ago by federal and state troops. Their 800-mile trek to a new reservation in Oklahoma is now known as the Trail of Tears.
``As many of you know, fire is sacred to the Cherokee,″ said Joyce Dugan, principal chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. ``It seems only fitting that a flame that means peace and has been all over the world should make its way to the Cherokee homelands.″
Earlier Tuesday, the torch was carried down an 18-inch-wide stretch of red carpet into downtown Dalton _ the heart of America’s carpet industry.
Carl Bouckaert, chief executive officer of carpetmaker Beaulieu of America, lit the city’s Olympic caldron before a crowd of 3,000 at a downtown park.