ATLANTA, July 27 -- A bomb blast which killed two people and injured 110 others at a park crowded with Olympic revelers early Saturday will be treated by law enforcement as an act of terrorism, but International Olympic officials refused to allow the explosion to derail the Centennial Games.
"The Games will go on. I repeat, the Games will go on," IOC director general Francois Carrard announced at a hastily called news conference. However, the IOC directed that a moment of silence be observed for the victims at each venue and Olympic flags be flown at half-staff.
"We must continue," said Billy Payne, president of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. "As much as we feel so discouraged and hurt by the occurrence, the Olympic movement remains one of the bright hopes of the future. We cannot, cannot deviate from our mission."
The explosion took place at 1:25 a.m. EDT near a concert stage, one of three within the confines of Centennial Olympic Park, where thousands had gathered on a cool Atlanta evening for a free rock concert. While all sporting venues connected with the Olympics are secured areas, the park was open to the public.
FBI spokesman Woody Johnson said, "The explosion will be treated as an act of terrorism unless any other explanation surfaces."
Atlanta took on a tense atmosphere as reports started to come in of suspicious-looking packages, including one across the street from the Main Press Center, where the world's media is headquartered to report on the Games.
Immediately following the explosion, already-tight security at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, which houses IOC and ACOG officials, was tightened even more.
"We had some security people do additional patrols through the hotel," said hotel spokesman Gordon Lambourne. "We've noticed some additional patrols near the hotel since this incident."
Johnson refused to determine the type of device, though police had found a suspicious package near the stage and were in the process of clearing the area when the device went off. Atlanta police received a telephone warning moments before the blast ripped through downtown Atlanta in the early hours of Saturday morning.
FBI officials confirmed that Atlanta police received a 911 call before the explosion and, after tracing the call, took fingerprints from the phone booth where the call was placed.
The security effort for the Atlanta Games includes members from five different law-enforcement agencies, and they went into full alert once the bomb went off.
"The investigative people on the ground also were there in New York [after the World Trade Center bombing] and in Oklahoma City," Johnson said.
Eyewitnesses described scenes of carnage and chaos in the moments after the explosion.
Jennifer Ellis, an employee for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, said, "I saw people bleeding, I saw people crying, I heard people screaming. There had to have been hundreds of people [injured], but I saw 15 to 20."
The explosion revived memories of the 1972 Munich Games in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists. Those Games were postponed for 34 hours, but the full schedule of events were ultimately completed. And just like Munich, the athletes have been asked to keep the Olympic flame burning.
Carrard said athletes who had to wake up early Saturday morning had been informed of the explosion, but they had been told to continue with plans to compete. The first event scheduled for Saturday was at the equestrian venue about an hour from Atlanta.
British fencer Fiona McIntosh said, "I think most of the competitors are professional. It is going to come as a terrible shock, and everyone is going to be distressed and unnerved," she said. "But most of those people know how to focus on their event. I am sure once they have been assured that all their friends and family are all right, they will just get on with it.
"I think you have to fight against any activity like this by showing that things go on as normal. It's horrendous, but, yes, I think the Games must go on."
Security at the Atlanta Olympics has been extremely tight after a TWA jetliner exploded shortly after takeoff from New York two days before the Games began. There has still been no determination what caused that explosion.
More than 25,000 security officers -- the biggest American peacetime force in history -- have been deployed for the Games, which have been plagued by security and organizational problems over the past week.
Day 8 of the Olympics had been billed as "Super Saturday" and was to be highlighted by one of the Olympics' blue ribbon events -- the men's 100 meters.
"We will march together, continuing to make the best of this situation to rejuvenate the spirit of Atlanta and to share it with the world for the next eight days as we have for the first eight," Payne said.
Centennial Olympic Park, Payne's inspiration for urban renewal, lies right in the heart of downtown in close proximity to several key Olympic locations. It is flanked on each side by the two main news-generating facilities used at the Centennial Games -- the Main Press Center to the east and the International Broadcast Center to the west.
The IBC is housed in a part of the Georgia World Congress Center, which also serves as a venue for five of the sports on the Olympic program. Just beyond the GWCC is the Omni, site of Olympic volleyball competition, and the Georgia Dome, where basketball and gymnastics have been contested.
Also directly to the west of the park is the Omni Hotel, where the U. S. men's basketball "Dream Team" -- featuring such NBA stars as Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal and Scottie Pippen -- has been housed.
Most of the 21-acre site has given way to a "tent city" housing exhibitions built by such Olympic sponsors as AT&T, Swatch and General Motors. The concert going on at the time of the blast took place on a stage in front of the "AT&T Global Olympic Village."