1996 Atlanta, USA

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

Atlanta was selected on September 18, 1990, in Tokyo, Japan, over Athens, Belgrade, Manchester, Melbourne, and Toronto at the 96th IOC Session. 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 12 years 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.

Many consider the Games to be instrumental in transforming Atlanta into the cosmopolitan city it is today. The Games also resulted in many modern infrastructure improvements. One example is the mid-rise dormitories built for the Olympic Village, which became the first residential housing for Georgia State University (Georgia State Village), and is now used by the Georgia Institute of Technology (North Avenue Apartments).

Another example is Centennial Olympic Stadium, which by design was later converted into the baseball-specific Turner Field 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 Park, which was built for the events, is the city’s lasting memorial of the games. The park initiated a revitalization of the surrounding area, and now serves as the hub for Atlanta’s newly-emerging tourist district.

The Atlanta Olympics followed the financial model established by the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The cost to stage the Games was US$1.8 billion. Governmental[clarification needed]funds were used for security, and around $500 Million of taxpayer money was used on the physical infrastructure including streetscaping, road improvements, Centennial Olympic Park, expansion of airport, improvements in public transportation, and redevelopment of public housing projects but neither paid for the actual Games and the new Venues themselves. To pay for the games, Atlanta relied on commercial sponsorship and ticket sales, resulting in a profit of $10 million.

Sporting Events at the Atlanta Olympics

Lilia Podkopayeva became an all-around olympic champion in women’s gymnastics. Podkopayeva also won a second gold medal in the floor exercise final and a silver on the beam — becoming the only female gymnast since Nadia Comăneci to win an individual event gold after winning the all-round title in the same Olympics. 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. The mostly US audience was in hindsight heavily critizised for being extremely loud to a point where several Russian and Romanian gymnasts could barely hear their music during the floor routine. Also it was noted that the audience was “hostile” towards athletes rivaling the US for the team gold, deliberately cheering only for the US team when gymnasts of other countries were about to perform.

Amy Van Dyken won four gold medals in the Olympic swimming pool, the first American woman to win four titles in a single Olympiad. Penny Heyns, swimmer of South Africa, won the Gold Medals in both the 100 metres and 200 metres breaststroke events. 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.

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 4×100 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 Pérec 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.

Kurt Angle of the United States won the gold medal in 100 kg (220 lb) freestyle wrestling. He competed with a broken neck. After the ’96 Olympic Games he pursued a career in “Sports Entertainment” style wrestling competing for both World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Alexander Karelin won his third Olympic gold medal as a Greco-Roman wrestler.

Andre Agassi won the gold medal in men’s tennis, which would eventually make him the first man and second player overall (after his wife, Steffi Graf) to win what is referred to as the Golden Slam, which consists of an Olympic gold medal and victories in the singles tournaments held at professional tennis’ four major events (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open).
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.

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 Empire. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia competed as Yugoslavia.

The 14 countries making their Olympic debut were: Azerbaijan, Burundi, Cape Verde, Comoros, Dominica, Guinea-Bissau, Macedonia, Nauru, Palestine, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The 10 countries making their Summer Olympic debut (after competing at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer) were: Armenia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Georgia, Kazakhstan,Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Slovakia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The Czech Republic and Slovakia attended the games as independent nations for the first time since the breakup of Czechoslovakia, while the rest of the nations that made their Summer Olympic debut were formerly part of the Soviet Union.