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The 1996 Summer Olympics of Atlanta, officially known as the Games of the XXVI Olympiad and unofficially known as the Centennial Olympics, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in 1996 in Atlantamarker, Georgiamarker, United Statesmarker.


Atlanta was in September 1990 in Tokyomarker, Japanmarker, over Athensmarker, Belgrademarker, Manchestermarker, Melbournemarker and Torontomarker. Atlanta's bid to host the Summer Games that began in 1987 was considered a long-shot, since the U.S. had hosted the Summer Olympics just 3 games earlier in Los Angeles. Atlanta's main rivals were Toronto, whose front running bid that began in 1986 seemed almost sure to succeed after Canada had held a successful 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and Melbourne, Australia, who hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics and felt that the Olympic Games should return to Australia. The Athens bid was based on sentiment, the fact that these Olympic Games would be the 100th Anniversary of the first Summer Games in Greece in 1896.

The chart's information below comes from the International Olympic Committee Vote History web page, regarding the cities that bid for Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic Games. The vote occurred at the 96th IOC Session in Tokyomarker, Japanmarker.

1996 Summer Olympics Bidding Results
City NOC Name Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5
Atlantamarker 19 20 26 34 51
Athensmarker 23 23 26 30 35
Torontomarker 14 17 18 22 -
Melbournemarker 12 21 16 - -
Manchestermarker 11 5 - - -
Belgrademarker 7 - - - -

Effect on the city

The games had a profound impact on the city of Atlanta and many in the metro area consider the Games to be instrumental in transforming Atlanta into the modernized city it has become , although it was already known as a modern city before then. One instance is the mid-rise dormitories built for the Olympic Village, as one of these complexes became the first residential housing for Georgia State Universitymarker, and has recently been transferred for use by the Georgia Institute of Technologymarker. Another example is Centennial Olympic Stadiummarker, which by design was later converted in the baseball-specific Turner Fieldmarker for the Atlanta Braves after the Games concluded, as there was no long-term need for a track and field venue in the city. Centennial Olympic Parkmarker was also built for the events and is still in use.

The Atlanta Olympics followed the model established by the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angelesmarker. The cost to stage the Games was US$1.8 billion. Governmental funds were used for security, but not for the actual Games themselves. To pay for the games, Atlanta relied on commercial sponsorship and ticket sales, resulting in a profit of $10 million. It must also be stated that up to 500 million dollars of tax payer money was used on the physical infrastructure including streetscaping, road improvements, centennial park, expansion of airport, improvement in public transportation, and redevelopment of public housing projects.


However, Atlanta's heavy reliance on corporate sponsorship caused many to consider the Games to be overly commercialized. Coca-Cola, whose corporate headquarters is in Atlanta, received criticism for being the exclusive drink offered in Olympic venues. In addition, the city of Atlanta was found to have been competing with the IOC for advertising and sponsorship dollars. The city licensed street vendors who sold certain products over others, and therefore provided a presence for companies who were not official Olympic sponsors.

A report prepared by European Olympic officials after the Games was critical of Atlanta's performance in several key issues, including the level of crowding in the Olympic Village, the quality of available food, the accessibility and convenience of transportation, and the Games' general atmosphere of commercialism. The opening ceremony, featuring 500 cheerleaders and 30 pickup trucks, was also "garish" by some observers and considered questionable in taste by many foreign visitors.

The Atlanta Olympics were marred by the Centennial Olympic Park bombingmarker on July 27. This bombing killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others, and caused the death of Melih Uzunyol by heart attack. Eric Robert Rudolph was charged with and confessed to this bombing and several others. He is now in a US Federal prison.

At the closing ceremony, IOCmarker President Juan Antonio Samaranch said in his closing speech, "Well done, Atlanta" and called the Games "most exceptional". This broke precedent for Samaranch, who had traditionally labeled each Games "the best Olympics ever" at each closing ceremony, a practice he resumed at the subsequent Games in Sydney in 2000.

Songs and themes

The Olympiad's official theme, "Summon the Heroes", was written by John Williams, making it the third Olympiad for which he has composed. The song "The Power of the Dream", composed by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and David Foster, with words by Linda Thompson was performed in the opening ceremony by Céline Dion accompanied by Foster and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Centennial Choir. Gladys Knight sang "Georgia on My Mind", Georgia's official state song, at the opening ceremony. The closing ceremony featured Gloria Estefan singing "Reach", the official theme song of the 1996 Olympics. At the closing of the ceremony Trisha Yearwood performed the Olympics song ["The Flame"].


The mascot for the Olympiad was an abstract, animated character named Izzy. In contrast to the standing tradition of mascots of national or regional significance in the city hosting the Olympiad, Izzy was an amorphous, computer-designed fantasy figure.


Women's 100 m hurdles at the Olympic stadium

A record 197 nations, all current IOCmarker member nations, took part, with a record 79 of them winning at least one medal. Palestine was allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time. Also for the first time, Olympic medals were won by the athletes from Armeniamarker, Azerbaijanmarker, Belarusmarker, Burundimarker, Ecuadormarker, Georgiamarker, Hong Kongmarker, Kazakhstanmarker, Moldovamarker, Mozambiquemarker, Slovakiamarker, Tongamarker, Ukrainemarker, and Uzbekistanmarker. Lee Lai Shan won a gold medal in sailing, the only Olympic medal that Hong Kongmarker ever won as a British colony (1952–1997). This meant that for the only time, the colonial flag of Hong Kong was raised to the accompaniment of the anthem God Save the Queen, as Hong Kong's sovereignty was later transferred to China in 1997.

Softball, beach volleyball and mountain biking debuted on the Olympic program, together with women's soccer/football and lightweight rowing.

  • Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic torch during the opening ceremonies of the games and received a replacement gold medal for his boxing victory in the 1960 Summer Olympics.
  • Kurt Angle of the United States won the gold medal in 100 kg (220 lb) freestyle wrestling while suffering from a fractured neck
  • Slovene gymnast Leon Štukelj arose at the opening ceremony as one of the oldest living sportsmen in the world (age 97)
  • Naim Süleymanoğlu became the first weightlifter to win three gold medals.
  • Donovan Bailey of Canada won the men's 100 m, setting a new world record of 9.84 seconds at that time. He also anchored his team's gold in the 4x100 m relay.
  • Michael Johnson won gold in both the 200 m and 400 m, setting a new world record of 19.32 seconds in the 200 m. Johnson afterward began disputing Bailey's unofficial title as the "world's fastest man", which later culminated in a 150-metre race between the two to settle the issue.
  • Marie-José Perec equaled Johnson's performance, although without a world record, by winning the rare 200 m/400 m double.
  • Carl Lewis won his 4th long jump gold medal at the age of 35.
  • Cycling professionals were admitted to the Olympics, with five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain winning the inaugural individual time trial event.
  • Michelle Smith of Ireland won three gold medals and a bronze in swimming. She remains her nation's most decorated Olympian. However, her victories were overshadowed by doping allegations even though she did not test positive in 1996. She received a four-year suspension in 1998 for tampering with a urine sample, though her medals and records were allowed to stand.
  • Kerri Strug of the United States women's gymnastics team vaulted with an injured ankle and landed on one foot. The US women's gymnastics team won its first gold medal.
  • Shannon Miller of the United States won the gold medal on the balance beam event. The first time an American Gymnast had won an individual gold medal outside of a contested Olympic games.
  • Amy Van Dyken won four gold medals in the Olympic swimming pool, the first American woman to win four titles in a single Olympiad.
  • Deon Hemmings became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for Jamaicamarker and the English-speaking West Indiesmarker.
  • Five athletes were disqualified for using banned drugs. A few of these athletes were reinstated since the drug they took had been declared illegal only a week before the Olympics.
  • Andre Agassi won the gold medal in tennis. This helped him become the first male player to ever win the career Golden Slam.
  • Deng Yaping of China won two gold medals in Women singles and doubles of table tennis. She also won these two titles in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
  • The US women's soccer team won the gold medal in the first ever women's soccer event.
  • Xeno Müller won gold for the Men's single scull event (rowing) in his first Olympic appearance. His time of 6:44.85 is still the current Olympic record.
  • Alexander Karelin won his third Olympic gold medal as a Greco-Roman wrestler.
  • Spainmarker won gold at the inagural rhythmic gymnastics team competition defeating the favorite and reigning world champion Bulgaria who won the World Championship less than a month ago.


Events of the Atlanta Games were held in a variety of areas. A number were held within the Olympic Ring, a three-mile circle from the center of Atlanta. Others were held at Stone Mountainmarker, about 20 miles outside of the city. To broaden ticket sales, other events, such as soccer, occurred in various cities in the southeast (see below).

Inside the Olympic Ring

The Morris Brown College Stadium.

Elsewhere in Metropolitan Atlanta

Other venues

After the Olympics, Centennial Olympic Stadium was converted into Turner Fieldmarker, which became home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team for the 1997 season. Once the Braves moved, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was demolished, and the site became a parking lot for Turner Field; the Omni was demolished that same year to make way for Philips Arenamarker on its site. The only other Olympic venue to be closed since has been the Miami Orange Bowlmarker, demolished in 2008 for the Florida Marlins' new baseball stadium to be built on its site.

Medals awarded

See the medal winners, ordered by sport:

Participating nations

[[Image:1996 Olympic games countries.PNG|thumb|Participants at Summer olympics 1996
Blue = Participating for the first time.
Green = Have previously participated.Yellow square is host city (Atlantamarker)]]A total of 197 nations were represented at the 1996 Games, and the combined total of athletes was about 10,318. Twenty-four countries made their Olympic debut this year, including eleven of the ex-Soviet countries that competed as part of the Unified Team in 1992. Russia competed independently for the first time since 1912, when it was the Russian Empiremarker. The Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker competed as Yugoslavia.

The 14 countries making their Olympic debut were: Azerbaijanmarker, Burundimarker, Cape Verdemarker, Comorosmarker, Dominicamarker, Guinea-Bissaumarker, Macedoniamarker, Nauru, Palestine, Saint Kitts and Nevismarker, Saint Luciamarker, São Tomé and Príncipemarker, Tajikistanmarker and Turkmenistanmarker.

The 10 countries making their Summer Olympic debut (after competing at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammermarker) were: Armeniamarker, Belarusmarker, Czech Republicmarker, Georgiamarker, Kazakhstanmarker, Kyrgyzstanmarker, Moldovamarker, Slovakiamarker, Ukrainemarker and Uzbekistanmarker.

  • (662)

Broadcast rights

Medal table

These are the top ten nations that won medals at these Games. (Host country is highlighted)
1 (host) 44 32 25 101
2 26 21 16 63
3 20 18 27 65
4 16 22 12 50
5 15 7 15 37
6 13 10 12 35
7 9 9 23 41
8 9 8 8 25
9 9 2 12 23
10 7 15 5 27

See also


  1. McGill's master of the rings
  2. Olympic bid smacks into $10M hurdle – fact mentioned in the 5th paragraph
  3. Matthew Burbank, et al., Olympic Dreams: The Impact of Mega Events on Local Politics, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001. pp. 97ff
  5. Olympics OFFICIAL Recap

External links

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