The 1996 Summer Olympics (French: Les Jeux olympiques d’t de 1996), known officially as the Games of the XXVI Olympiad and unofficially as the Centennial Olympics, was a major international multi-sport event that took place in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, from July 19 to August 4, 1996. A record 197 nations, all current IOC member nations, took part in the Games, comprising 10,318 athletes. The International Olympic Committee voted in 1986 to separate the Summer and Winter Games, which had been held in the same year since 1924, and place them in alternating even-numbered years, beginning in 1994. The 1996 Summer Games were the first to be staged in a different year from the Winter Games. Atlanta became the fifth American city to host the Olympic Games and the third to hold a Summer Olympic Games.
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 fact that these Olympic Games would be the 100th Anniversary of the first Summer Games in Greece in 1896. The initial push for 1996 coming to Atlanta came from Billy Payne and then Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, whose main push for the Olympics to come to Atlanta mainly came from a motivation to showcase a changed and resurgent American South which was overcoming racial tensions from the African American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s and to showcase a robust and growing Southern economy to help offset international stereotypes that the region was still plagued with poverty.
The 1996 Olympics was predicated on the financial model established by the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The cost to stage the Games was US$1.8billion. U.S. Government 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.[bettersourceneeded]
Events of the 1996 Games were held in a variety of areas. A number were held within the Olympic Ring, a 3mi (4.8km) circle from the center of Atlanta. Others were held at Stone Mountain, about 20 miles (32km) outside of the city. To broaden ticket sales, other events, such as soccer, occurred in various cities in the Southeast.
The Olympiad’s official theme, “Summon the Heroes,” was written by John Williams, making it the third Olympiad for which he has composed. The opening ceremony featured Cline Dion singing The Power of the Dream, the official theme song of the 1996 Olympics. 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, fantasy figure. The 1996 Olympics were the first to have two separate opening ceremony events. Savannah, because of its geographical separation from Atlanta, had its own opening ceremonies on July 18, 1996. The event featured “Worldwide Connection,” a song composed by Savannah native Jeffrey Reed and a concert by Trisha Yearwood, a Georgia native.
Atlanta’s Olympic slogan “Come Celebrate Our Dream” was written by Jack Arogeti, a Managing Director at McCann-Erickson in Atlanta at the time. The slogan was selected from more than 5,000 submitted by the public to the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. Billy Payne noted that Jack captured the spirit and our true motivation for the Olympic games.
The ceremony began with a flashback from Barcelona 1992 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in August 1992 which showed the then president of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch asking the athletes to compete in Atlanta in 1996. Then, spirits rose in the northwest corner of the stadium, each representing one of the colors in the Olympic rings. They called the tribes of the world which after mixed percussion formed the Olympic rings while the youth of Atlanta formed the number 100. Famed film composer John Williams composed the official overture for the 1996 Olympics, Summon the Heroes, his second overture for an Olympic games (the first being Olympic Fanfare and Theme written for the 1984 Summer Olympics). The song “The Power of the Dream”, composed by David Foster performing in the opening ceremony by Cline Dion accompanied by David Foster on the piano, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Centennial Choir (Morehouse College Glee Club, Spelman College Glee Club and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus). Gladys Knight sang “Georgia on My Mind”, Georgia’s official state song, at the opening ceremony. There was also a showcase called “Welcome To The World”, which featured cheerleaders, Chevrolet pick-up trucks, marching bands, and steppers, showcasing the American youth and college sporting culture, including the wave commonly seen in sporting events around the world. A showcase entitled “Summertime” focused on Atlanta and the Old South with a placement on its beauty, spirit, music, history, culture, and rebirth after the American Civil War. 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. For the torch ceremony, more than 10,000 Olympic torches were manufactured by the American Meter Company and electroplated by Erie Plating Company. Each torch weighed about 3.5 pounds (1.6kg) and was made primarily of aluminum, with a Georgia pecan wood handle and gold ornamentation.
The 1996 Summer Olympic programme featured 271 events in the 26 sports. Softball, beach volleyball and mountain biking debuted on the Olympic program, together with women’s soccer/football and lightweight rowing.
In women’s gymnastics, Lilia Podkopayeva became an all-around Olympic champion. 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 Comneci 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 Spanish team won the first gold medal of the new competition by women’s rhythmic group all-around. The team was formed by Estela Gimnez, Marta Bald, Nuria Cabanillas, Lorena Gurndez, Estbaliz Martnez and Tania Lamarca.
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.
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1996 Summer Olympics – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia