manhunt deadly games real people
Source: Netflix

'Manhunt: Deadly Games' Tells the True Story of Richard Jewell and Eric Rudolph

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Dec. 15 2020, Updated 6:00 p.m. ET

Following the success of CBS’s Manhunt: Unabomber comes the highly anticipated follow-up, Manhunt: Deadly Games, streaming on Netflix. The true crime anthology series tells the story of the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta and the two main suspects in the case: Richard Jewell, played by Cameron Britton, and Eric Rudolph, played by Jack Huston.

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Like the first season of the show, Manhunt: Deadly Games is based on a true story and real people, but the series does take some liberties with its details. 

But just how much of Manhunt: Deadly Games is based in reality and what parts of the story have been adapted for television? Keep scrolling to learn more about the real people behind the infamous bombing.

manhunt deadly games real people
Source: Netflix
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Who are the real people behind the story of 'Manhunt: Deadly Games'?

Manhunt: Deadly Games revisits the real-life story of the Centennial Olympic Park pipe bombing that took place in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics. On July 27, thousands of people had gathered at the park for a late-night concert when security guard Richard Jewell noticed an unattended bag and called the authorities. 

Unfortunately, before the park could be evacuated, the bomb went off, killing one person and injuring 111 others. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Richard was hailed as a hero and credited for saving hundreds of lives. 

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However, public opinion soon turned against him after a news article by journalist Kathy Scruggs revealed that the FBI was looking at Richard as the prime suspect for the bombing. 

Although Richard was never charged and zero evidence was found against him, he was subjected to a vicious trial by media in which he was all but pronounced guilty. His life was effectively ruined.

manhunt deadly games real people
Source: Netflix
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Thankfully, authorities were on the track of the real perpetrator, Eric Rudolph, and in 1998, Rudolph’s name was officially tied to the bombing. As shown in the series, between the years of 1996 and 1998, Rudolph was also responsible for four other explosions that occurred around the Atlanta area. 

However, he managed to evade capture until 2003.

Most of the storyline in the series is drawn from real life, but once it gets into the manhunt surrounding the real bomber, it deviates a little more from what happened in 2003. 

It’s true that Rudolph did spend around five years evading authorities by hiding out in the Appalachian wilderness and that authorities spent six months mounting an extensive manhunt that involved over 200 agents, dogs, and surveillance equipment. 

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But not a lot is known about how Rudolph spent his time in the mountains. Unlike what’s depicted in Manhunt: Deadly Games, there is no evidence that he ever killed anyone while he was on the run. The dramatic chase between authorities and Rudolph in the woods is also fictionalized for the show. 

manhunt deadly games real people
Source: getty

Multiple bombing suspect Eric Robert Rudolph, center, is escorted by law enforcement officials from the Cherokee County Courthouse and Jail in Murphy, N.C., June 2, 2003

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There’s also no hard evidence of an unlawful paramilitary group taking Rudolph in and helping him evade authorities. Nor was there a dramatic standoff between any local extremist groups and the FBI. The character of Big John, leader of the anti-government group that assists Eric, is also fictional.

Audiences from the town of Murphy have also taken issue with the way their town is depicted in the show. Although the area of the Smoky Mountains where Rudolph hid out is a known location for unlawful militia-related exercises, locals say their influence in the area is exaggerated for television. 

In reality, the hunt for Rudolph concluded rather anticlimactically. He was arrested by a local police officer in Murphy, N.C., while scavenging through a dumpster for food in the middle of the night. 

One detail the show manages to avoid getting wrong is the story of how journalist Kathy Scruggs got the scoop for her big story exposing Richard. In the 2019 movie Richard Jewell, director Clint Eastwood suggested that Kathy got her information in exchange for sexual favors, a fact that was completely untrue and caused a lot of controversy. Luckily, the television show avoids that same mistake.

Manhunt: Deadly Games is available to stream on Netflix.

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