The opening ceremony of the summer Olympic Games may still be months away, but universities and colleges in the Atlanta area are already big winners.
Eight campuses are sharing more than $320 million in new dormitories, sports equipment and facilities to house Olympic athletes and events. The buildings are the schools' to keep when the Olympic flame is extinguished.
This windfall is altering more than the physical appearance of the campuses. For example, Georgia State University, a commuter school, will eventually house its first-ever residential students in four high-rise blocks being built for athletes. Six mainly black colleges will be linked by a six-mile, $10 million Olympic walkway.
And the Georgia Institute of Technology, by far the biggest recipient of Olympic largesse, is using the occasion to launch a long-planned academic restructuring.
Georgia Tech will be home to 16,000 Olympians and the backdrop for international telecasts. It is getting a $21 million aquatic centre, more than $125 million worth of new or renovated housing and millions to spruce up the campus quadrangle. Every room is to be linked by fibre-optic cable to voice, video, security and computer networks.
"We believe that Georgia Tech has undergone a makeover unlike any other university in this century," said spokesman David Arnold.
Georgia Tech's sister school across town, Georgia State, will get its first-ever halls of residence. Built to house 4,000 athletes, they will eventually be home to 2,000 of Georgia State's 24,000 students. The furnished four and six-bedroom flats also have a fitness centre, a retail shopping area, lounges, meeting rooms and indoor parking.
The only drawback is that the buildings are two miles from the campus and buses will be needed when the students move in. Also, Georgia State has been obliged to interrupt its summer term for the Olympics. Georgia Tech will postpone its session.
Georgia State had been planning dormitories for at least four years, said housing director Maggie McHugh-Parrish. "The timing of the Olympics was just good luck," she said. The school will also get improvements to its sports arena.
Clark-Atlanta University will inherit the Olympic hockey pitches, Morris Brown College a 15,000-seat stadium, Morehouse College a refurbished track and basketball arena and Morehouse Medical College a $1 million drug-testing lab.
But perhaps the most dramatic improvement to these and two other mainly black schools will be a $10 million, six-mile corridor of widened streets and pedestrian malls connecting their inner-city campuses. New lighting and bus routes also have been added: "Students can walk from one to the other without risk of physical hazard," said Joseph Thompson, director of the Atlanta University Center. "It brings our colleges together."