1996 Summer Olympics

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Games of the XXVI Olympiad
1996 Summer Olympics logo.svg
Emblem of the 1996 Summer Olympics
Host cityAtlanta, Georgia, United States
MottoThe Celebration of the Century
Athletes10,339 (6,822 men, 3,422 women)
Events271 in 26 sports (37 disciplines)
Opening July 19, 1996
Closing August 4, 1996
Opened by
Stadium Centennial Olympic Stadium

The 1996 Summer Olympics (officially the Games of the XXVI Olympiad, also known as Atlanta 1996 and commonly referred to as the Centennial Olympic Games) [2] [3] [4] were an international multi-sport event held from July 19 to August 4, 1996, in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. These were the fourth Summer Olympics to be hosted by the United States, and marked the 100th anniversary of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, the inaugural edition of the modern Olympic Games. These were also the first Summer Olympics to be held in a different year than the Winter Olympics since the Winter Olympics commenced in 1924, as part of a new IOC practice implemented in 1994 to hold the Summer and Winter Games in alternating, even-numbered years. The 1996 Games were the first of the two consecutive Summer Olympics to be held in a predominantly English-speaking country, preceding the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. These were also the last Summer Olympics to be held in North America until 2028, when Los Angeles will host the games for the third time.


10,320 athletes from 197 National Olympic Committees competed in 26 sports, including the Olympic debuts of beach volleyball, mountain biking and softball, as well as the new disciplines of lightweight rowing, women's swimming, women's fencing, team rhythmic gymnastics, and women's association football. A total of 24 countries made their Summer Olympic debuts in Atlanta, including 11 former Soviet republics participating for the first time as independent nations. With a total of 101 medals, the United States topped the medal table for the first time since 1984 (and for the first time since 1968 in a non-boycotted Summer Olympics), also winning the most gold (44) and silver (32) medals out of all the participating nations. Notable performances during the competition included those of Andre Agassi, whose gold medal in these Games would be followed up with the French Open title in 1999, making him the first men's singles tennis player to complete the Golden Slam; Donovan Bailey, who set a new world record of 9.84 for the men's 100 metres; Lilia Podkopayeva, who became the second gymnast to win an individual event gold medal after winning the all-around title in the same Olympics; and the Magnificent Seven, who dramatically won the first ever U.S. gold medal in the Women's artistic gymnastics team all-around. [5]

The Games were marred by violence on July 27, 1996, when a pipe bomb was detonated at Centennial Olympic Park (which had been built to serve as a public focal point for the festivities), killing two and injuring 111. Years later, Eric Rudolph confessed to the bombing and a series of related terrorist attacks, and was sentenced to life in prison. Nonetheless, the 1996 Olympics turned a profit, helped by record revenue from sponsorship deals and broadcast rights, and a reliance on private funding, among other factors. There was some criticism of the apparent over-commercialization of the Games, with other issues raised by European officials, such as the availability of food and transport. The event had a lasting impact on the city; Centennial Olympic Park led a revitalization of Atlanta's downtown area, and has served as a symbol of the legacy of the 1996 Games; the Olympic Village buildings have since been used as residential housing for area universities; and the Centennial Olympic Stadium has since been redeveloped twice, first as the Turner Field baseball stadium, and then the American football venue Center Parc Stadium.

Bidding process

Atlanta was selected on September 18, 1990, in Tokyo, Japan, over Athens, Belgrade, Manchester, Melbourne, and Toronto at the 96th IOC Session. The city entered the competition as a dark horse, being up against stiff competition. [6] The US media also criticized Atlanta as a second-tier city and complained of Georgia's Confederate history. However, the IOC Evaluation Commission ranked Atlanta's infrastructure and facilities the highest, while IOC members said that it could guarantee large television revenues similar to the success of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the most recent Olympics in the United States. [7] Additionally, former US ambassador to the UN and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young touted Atlanta's civil rights history and reputation for racial harmony. Young also wanted to showcase a reformed American South. The strong economy of Atlanta and improved race relations in the South helped to impress the IOC officials. Coca-Cola, a long-standing commercial partner of the Olympics, was a strong push to bring the games to its hometown. [8] The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) also proposed a substantial revenue-sharing with the IOC, USOC, and other NOCs. [8] Atlanta's main rivals were Toronto, whose front-running bid that began in 1986 had chances to succeed after Canada had held a successful 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and Melbourne, Australia, who hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics and after Brisbane, Australia's failed bid for the 1992 games (which were awarded to Barcelona) and prior to Sydney, Australia's successful 2000 Summer Olympics bid. This would be Toronto's fourth failed attempt since 1960 (tried in 1960, 1964, and 1976, but was defeated by Rome, Tokyo and Montreal). [9]

Greece, the home of the ancient and first modern Olympics, was considered by many observers the "natural choice" for the Centennial Games. [7] [8] However, Athens bid chairman Spyros Metaxa demanded that it be named as the site of the Olympics because of its "historical right due to its history", which may have caused resentment among delegates. Furthermore, the Athens bid was described as "arrogant and poorly prepared", being regarded as "not being up to the task of coping with the modern and risk-prone extravaganza" of the current Games. Athens faced numerous obstacles, including "political instability, potential security problems, air pollution, traffic congestion and the fact that it would have to spend about US$3 billion to improve its infrastructure of airports, roads, rail lines and other amenities". [7] [10] [11] Athens would later be selected to host the 2004 Summer Olympics seven years later on September 5, 1997.

1996 Summer Olympics bidding results [12]
CityNOC NameRound 1Round 2Round 3Round 4Round 5
Atlanta Flag of the United States.svg  United States 1920263451
Athens Flag of Greece.svg  Greece 2323263035
Toronto Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 14171822
Melbourne Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 122116
Manchester Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  Great Britain 115
Belgrade Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg  SFR Yugoslavia [13] 7

Development and preparation


The total cost of the 1996 Summer Olympics was estimated to be around US$1.7 billion. [14] The venues and the Games themselves were funded entirely via private investment, [15] and the only public funding came from the U.S. government for security, and around $500 million of public money used on physical public infrastructure including streetscaping, road improvements, Centennial Olympic Park (alongside $75 million in private funding), expansion of the airport, improvements in public transportation, and redevelopment of public housing projects. [16] $420 million worth of tickets were sold, sale of sponsorship rights accounted for $540 million, and sale of the domestic broadcast rights to NBC accounted for $456 million. In total, the Games turned a profit of $19 million. [17] [14]

The cost for Atlanta 1996 compares with costs of $4.6 billion for Rio 2016, $40–44 billion for Beijing 2008, and $51 billion for Sochi 2014 (the most expensive Olympics in history). The average cost for the Summer Games since 1960 is $5.2 billion. Unlike Atlanta 1996, Beijing and Sochi were primarily funded by their respective governments. [18]

Venues and infrastructure

A Boeing 747-200 from UPS Airlines in the 1996 Summer Olympics paint. N521UP B747-212B UPS(logojet) NRT 09JUL01 (6896202880).jpg
A Boeing 747-200 from UPS Airlines in the 1996 Summer Olympics paint.
A McDonnell Douglas MD-11 from Delta Air Lines in the 1996 Summer Olympics paint. McDonnell Douglas MD-11, Delta Air Lines AN0063288.jpg
A McDonnell Douglas MD-11 from Delta Air Lines in the 1996 Summer Olympics paint.
Georgia Dome Atlanta skyline with sports complexes.JPEG
Georgia Dome
Alexander Memorial Coliseum Alexander Memorial Coliseum IN THE FOREGROUND AND DOWNTOWN ATLANTA IN THE BACKGROUND.JPG
Alexander Memorial Coliseum
Georgia Tech Aquatic Center Georgia Tech Aquatic Center (1996).JPEG
Georgia Tech Aquatic Center

Events of the 1996 Games were held in a variety of areas. A number were held within the Olympic Ring, a 3 mi (4.8 km) circle from the center of Atlanta. Others were held at Stone Mountain, about 20 miles (32 km) outside of the city. To broaden ticket sales, other events, such as Association football (soccer), were staged in various cities in the Southeast. [19] [20]


The Olympiad's official theme, "Summon the Heroes", was written by John Williams, making it the third Olympiad at that point for which he had composed (official composer 1984; NBC's coverage composer 1988). The opening ceremony featured Céline Dion singing "The Power of the Dream", the theme song of the 1996 Olympics. The closing ceremony featured Gloria Estefan singing "Reach", 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. A video game featuring the Games' mascot, Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings , was also released. [21]

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 [22] 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." [23]

The city of Savannah, Georgia, host of the yachting events, held its own local festivities, including a local cauldron lighting event on the first day of the Games (headlined by a performance by country musician Trisha Yearwood). [24]

In 1994, African-American artist Kevin Cole was commissioned to create the Coca-Cola Centennial Olympic Mural, and the 15-story mural took two years to complete. [25]


All times are in Eastern Daylight Time (UTC-4); the other, Birmingham, Alabama, uses Central Daylight Time (UTC-5)
OCOpening ceremonyEvent competitions1Gold medal eventsCCClosing ceremony
July/August 1996JulyAugustEvents
Olympic Rings Icon.svg Ceremonies OC CC
Aquatics Diving pictogram.svg Diving 111137
Swimming pictogram.svg Swimming 4455455
Synchronized swimming pictogram.svg Synchronized swimming 1
Water polo pictogram.svg Water polo 1
Archery pictogram.svg Archery 1124
Athletics pictogram.svg Athletics 24585469144
Badminton pictogram.svg Badminton 235
Baseball pictogram.svg Baseball 12
Softball pictogram.svg Softball 1
Basketball pictogram.svg Basketball 112
Boxing pictogram.svg Boxing 6612
Canoeing Canoeing (slalom) pictogram.svg Slalom 2216
Canoeing (flatwater) pictogram.svg Sprint 66
Cycling Cycling (road) pictogram.svg Road cycling 11211
Cycling (track) pictogram.svg Track cycling 1124
Cycling (mountain biking) pictogram.svg Mountain biking11
Equestrian pictogram.svg Equestrian 1111116
Fencing pictogram.svg Fencing 12212210
Field hockey pictogram.svg Field hockey 112
Football pictogram.svg Football 112
Gymnastics Gymnastics (artistic) pictogram.svg Artistic 11115516
Gymnastics (rhythmic) pictogram.svg Rhythmic11
Handball pictogram.svg Handball 112
Judo pictogram.svg Judo 222222214
Modern pentathlon pictogram.svg Modern pentathlon 11
Rowing pictogram.svg Rowing 7714
Sailing pictogram.svg Sailing 4122110
Shooting pictogram.svg Shooting 2212222215
Table tennis pictogram.svg Table tennis 11114
Tennis pictogram.svg Tennis 224
Volleyball Volleyball (beach) pictogram.svg Beach volleyball 114
Volleyball (indoor) pictogram.svg Indoor volleyball11
Weightlifting pictogram.svg Weightlifting 111111111110
Wrestling pictogram.svg Wrestling 555520
Daily medal events1017121714131320272071814213018271
Cumulative total10273956708396116143163170188202223253271
July/August 199619th
Total events


Opening ceremony

The ceremony began with a 60-second countdown, which included footage from all of the previous Olympic Games at twenty-two seconds. There was then a flashback to the closing ceremony of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, showing the then president of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, inviting the athletes to compete in Atlanta in 1996. Then, spirits ascended in the northwest corner of the stadium, each representing one of the colors in the Olympic rings. The spirits 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 score composer John Williams wrote the official overture for the 1996 Olympics, called "Summon the Heroes"; this was his second overture for Olympic games, the first being "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" written for the 1984 Summer Olympics. Céline Dion performed David Foster's official 1996 Olympics song "The Power of the Dream", accompanied by Foster on the piano, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Centennial Choir (comprising Morehouse College Glee Club, Spelman College Glee Club and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus). Gladys Knight sang Georgia's official state song "Georgia on My Mind"

There was a showcase entitled "Welcome To The World", featuring cheerleaders, Chevrolet pick-up trucks, marching bands, and steppers, which highlighted the American youth and a typical Saturday college football game in the South, including the wave commonly produced by spectators in sporting events around the world. There was another showcase entitled "Summertime" which focused on Atlanta and the Old South, emphasizing its beauty, spirit, music, history, culture, and rebirth after the American Civil War. The ceremony also featured a memorable dance tribute to the athletes and to the goddesses of victory of the ancient Greek Olympics, using silhouette imagery. The accompanying music, "The Tradition of the Games", was composed by Basil Poledouris. [26]

Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic cauldron and later 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 (1.6 kg) and was made primarily of aluminum, with a Georgia pecan wood handle and gold ornamentation. [27] [28]

Closing ceremony


Medal designs for the 1996 Olympics 1996 Summer Olympics medals, Atlanta History Center.jpg
Medal designs for the 1996 Olympics

The 1996 Summer Olympic programme featured 271 events in 26 sports. Softball, beach volleyball and mountain biking debuted on the Olympic program, together with women's football, lightweight rowing, women's swimming, women's fencing, and a team rhythmic gymnastics event.

1996 Summer Olympics Sports Programme

In women's gymnastics, Ukrainian Lilia Podkopayeva became the 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 Comăneci to win an individual event gold after winning the all-around 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, winning the first women's team gold medal for the US. Shannon Miller won the gold medal on the balance beam event, the first time an American gymnast had won an individual gold medal in non-boycotted Olympic games. The Spanish team won the first gold medal in the new competition of women's rhythmic group all-around. The team was formed by Estela Giménez, Marta Baldó, Nuria Cabanillas, Lorena Guréndez, Estíbaliz Martínez 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. [29] [30]

Women's 100 m hurdles at the Olympic stadium JO Atlanta 1996 - Stade.jpg
Women's 100 m hurdles at the Olympic stadium

In track and field, Donovan Bailey of Canada won the men's 100 m, setting a new world record of 9.84 seconds at that time. [31] 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. 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.

Whitewater slalom events at the Ocoee Whitewater Center Ocoee River 1996 Olympics.jpg
Whitewater slalom events at the Ocoee Whitewater Center

In tennis, Andre Agassi won the gold medal, which would eventually make him the first man and second singles player overall (after his eventual wife, Steffi Graf) to win the career 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).

The Olympic flag waves at the 1996 Games JO Atlanta 1996 - Drapeau.jpg
The Olympic flag waves at the 1996 Games

There were a series of national firsts realized during the Games. Deon Hemmings became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for Jamaica and the English-speaking West Indies. Lee Lai Shan won a gold medal in sailing, the only Olympic medal that Hong Kong ever won as a British colony (1842–1997). This meant that for the only time, the colonial flag of Hong Kong was raised to the accompaniment of the British national anthem "God Save the Queen", as Hong Kong's sovereignty was later transferred to China in 1997. The US women's soccer team won the gold medal in the first-ever women's football event. For the first time, Olympic medals were won by athletes from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burundi, Ecuador, Georgia, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mozambique, Slovakia, Tonga, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Another first in Atlanta was that this was the first Summer Olympics ever that not a single nation swept all three medals in a single event.


Medal count

These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1996 Games.

  *   Host nation (United States)

1Flag of the United States.svg  United States*443225101
2Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 26211663
3Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 20182765
4Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 16221250
5Flag of France.svg  France 1571537
6Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 13101235
7Flag of Australia.svg  Australia 992341
8Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba 98825
9Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine 921223
10Flag of South Korea (1984-1997).svg  South Korea 715527
Totals (10 entries)168144155467

Participating National Olympic Committees

Participants at Summer olympics 1996
Blue = Participating for the first time. Green = Have previously participated. Yellow square is host city (Atlanta) 1996 Summer Olympic games countries.png
Participants at Summer olympics 1996
Blue = Participating for the first time. Green = Have previously participated. Yellow square is host city (Atlanta)
Number of athletes 1996 Summer olympics team numbers.gif
Number of athletes

A total of 197 nations, all of the then-existing and recognized National Olympic Committees, were represented at the 1996 Games, and the combined total of athletes was about 10,318.After missing the 1992 Summer Games Afghanistan and Cambodia returned to send delegations to the Games. [32] 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 participated in the Summer Olympics separately from the other countries of the former Soviet Union for the first time since 1912 (when it was the Russian Empire). Russia had been a member of the Unified Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics together with 11 post-Soviet states. 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, Palestinian Authority, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The ten 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.

Participating National Olympic Committees

Centennial Olympic Park bombing

The marker at the entrance to Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta The marker at the entrance to Olympic Park in Atlanta.jpg
The marker at the entrance to Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta

The 1996 Olympics were marred by the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, which occurred on July 27. Security guard Richard Jewell discovered the pipe bomb and immediately notified law enforcement, helping to evacuate as many people as possible from the area before it exploded. Although Jewell's quick actions are credited for saving many lives, the bombing killed spectator Alice Hawthorne, wounded 111 others, and caused the death of Melih Uzunyol by a heart attack. Jewell was later considered a suspect in the bombing but was never charged, and he was cleared in October 1996.

Fugitive Eric Rudolph was arrested in May 2003 and charged with the Olympic Park bombing as well as the bombings of two abortion clinics and a gay nightclub. [33] At his trial two years later, he confessed to all charges and afterwards released a statement, saying: "the purpose of the attack on July 27th was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand." [34] He received four life sentences without parole, [33] to be served at USP Florence ADMAX near Florence, Colorado.


The 1996 Olympic cauldron, designed by Siah Armajani 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics cauldron 0460.jpg
The 1996 Olympic cauldron, designed by Siah Armajani
The Flair Monument, erected in remembrance of the 1996 Games Flair monument.jpg
The Flair Monument, erected in remembrance of the 1996 Games

Preparations for the Olympics lasted more than seven years and had an economic impact of at least US$5.14 billion. Over two million visitors came to Atlanta, and approximately 3.5 billion people around the world watched at least some of the events on television. Although marred by the tragedy of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, the Games were a financial success, due in part to TV rights contracts and sponsorships at record levels. [35]

Beyond international recognition, the Games resulted in many modern infrastructure improvements. The mid-rise dormitories built for the Olympic Village, which became the first residential housing for Georgia State University (Georgia State Village), are now used by the Georgia Institute of Technology (North Avenue Apartments). As designed, the Centennial Olympic Stadium was converted into Turner Field after the Paralympics, which became the home of the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team from 1997 to 2016. The Braves' former home, Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, was demolished in 1997 and the site became a parking lot for Turner Field; the Omni Coliseum was demolished the same year to make way for State Farm Arena. The city's permanent memorial to the 1996 Olympics is Centennial Olympic Park, which was built as a focal point for the Games. The park initiated a revitalization of the surrounding area and now serves as the hub for Atlanta's tourism district. [35]

In November 2016, a commemorative plaque was unveiled for Centennial Olympic Park to honor the 20th anniversary of the Games. [36] [37]

Following the Braves' departure from Turner Field to Truist Park in 2017, Georgia State University acquired the former Olympic Stadium and surrounding parking lots. It reconfigured the stadium for a second time into Center Parc Stadium for its college football team.

The 1996 Olympic cauldron was originally built and placed at the intersection of Fulton Street and Capitol Avenue, near the Centennial Olympic Stadium. After the Paralympics, in order to make room for the stadium conversion, the Olympic cauldron was moved (except its ramp, which was demolished) to the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Fulton Street in 1997, where it has stayed since. Since Georgia State University's acquisition of the former Olympic Stadium and surrounding lots, there's been proposals and growing calls to move the Olympic cauldron to Centennial Olympic Park. [38] [39] [40]

The Olympic cauldron was re-lit in February 2020 for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. [41]

The 1996 Olympics are the most recent edition of the Summer Olympics to be held in the United States. Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympics, 32 years after the Games were held in Atlanta. [42]


The 1996 Summer Olympics relied heavily on commercial sponsorship. The Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company was the exclusive provider of soft drinks at Olympics venues, and built an attraction known as Coca-Cola Olympic City for the Games. [43] As part of a sponsorship agreement with Columbia TriStar Television, the syndicated game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune both produced episodes with Olympics tie-ins (including branded memorabilia and contests) for broadcast between April and July 1996. These included a Jeopardy! international tournament, and three weeks of Wheel of Fortune episodes filmed on-location at Atlanta's Fox Theatre. [44] [45] [46]

The Games were affected by several instances of ambush marketing—in which companies attempt to use the Games as a means to promote their brand, in competition with the exclusive, category-based sponsorship rights issued by the Atlanta organizing committee and the IOC (which grants the rights to use Olympics-related terms and emblems in marketing). The Atlanta organizing committee threatened legal actions against advertisers whose marketing implied an official association with the Games. Several non-sponsors set up marketing activities in areas near venues, such as Samsung (competing with Motorola), which ambushed the Games with its "96 Expo". [47] [48] The city of Atlanta had also licensed street vendors to sell products from competitors to Olympic sponsors. [49] [50]

The most controversial ambush campaign was undertaken by Nike, Inc., which had begun an advertising campaign with aggressive slogans that mocked the Games' values, such as "Faster, Higher, Stronger, Badder", "If you're not here to win, you're a tourist", and "You don't win silver, you lose gold." The slogans were featured on magazine ads and billboards it purchased in Atlanta. [47] Nike also opened a pop-up store known as the Nike Center near the Athletes' Village, which distributed Nike-branded flags to visitors (presumably to be used at events). [51] IOC marketing director Michael Payne expressed concern for the campaign, believing that athletes could perceive them as being an insult to their accomplishments. [51] Payne and the United States Olympic Committee's marketing director, John Krimsky, met with Howard Slusher, a subordinate of Nike co-founder Phil Knight. The meeting quickly turned aggressive, with Payne warning that the IOC could pull accreditation for Nike employees and ban the display of its logos on equipment; he also threatened to organize a press conference where silver medallists from the Games, as well as prominent Nike-sponsored athlete Michael Johnson (who attracted attention during the Games for wearing custom, gold-colored Nike shoes), would denounce the company. Faced with these threats, Nike agreed to retract most of its negative advertising and PR stunts. [51]


At the closing ceremony, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch said in his closing speech, "Well done, Atlanta" and simply 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 Winter Games in Nagano in 1998. [52]

A report prepared after the Games by European Olympic officials was critical of Atlanta's performance in several key areas, 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. [53] IOC vice-president Dick Pound responded to criticism of the commercialization of these Games, stating that they still adhered to a historic policy barring the display of advertising within venues, and that "you have to look to the private sector for at least a portion of the funding, and unless you're looking for handouts, you're dealing with people who are investing business assets, and they have to get a return." [49]

In 1997, Athens, Greece was awarded the 2004 Summer Olympics. Along with addressing the shortcomings of its 1996 bid, it was lauded for its efforts to promote the traditional values of the Olympic Games, which some IOC observers felt had been lost due to the over-commercialization of the 1996 Games. However, the 2004 Games heavily relied on public funding and eventually failed to make a profit, which some have claimed contributed to the financial crisis in Greece. [54] [55] [56]

The financial struggles faced by many later Games, such as the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, have led later to more positive re-appraisals of the management of the 1996 Summer Games. Former JPMorgan Chase president (and torchbearer) Kabir Sehgal noted that in contrast to many later Games, the 1996 Summer Olympics were financially viable, had a positive economic impact on the city, and most of the facilities constructed for the Games still see use in the present day. Sehgal contrasted the 1996 Games' "grassroots" effort backed almost entirely by private funding, with the only significant public spending coming from infrastructure associated with the Games, to modern "top-down" bids, instigated by local governments and reliant on taxpayer funding, making them unpopular among citizens who may not necessarily be interested. [14] The 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles will rely almost entirely on private funding, with the city of Los Angeles and state of California each intending to provide up to $250 million in funding in the event of shortfalls, and the federal government providing funding solely for security. [57] [58] [59]

See also

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The 2004 Summer Olympics, officially the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad and also known as Athens 2004, were an international multi-sport event held from 13 to 29 August 2004 in Athens, Greece. The Games saw 10,625 athletes compete, some 600 more than expected, accompanied by 5,501 team officials from 201 countries, with 301 medal events in 28 different sports. The 2004 Games marked the first time since the 1996 Summer Olympics that all countries with a National Olympic Committee were in attendance, and also marked the first time Athens hosted the Games since their first modern incarnation in 1896 as well as the return of the Olympic games to its birthplace. Athens became one of only four cities at the time to have hosted the Summer Olympic Games on two occasions. A new medal obverse was introduced at these Games, replacing the design by Giuseppe Cassioli that had been used since 1928. The new design features the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens rectifying the long-running mistake of using a depiction of the Roman Colosseum rather than a Greek venue. The 2004 Games was the first of two consecutive Olympic games to be held in Southern Europe since the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, and was followed by the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1984 Summer Olympics</span> Multi-sport event in Los Angeles, California, US

The 1984 Summer Olympics were an international multi-sport event held from July 28 to August 12, 1984, in Los Angeles, California, United States. It marked the second time that Los Angeles had hosted the Games, the first being in 1932. California was the home state of the incumbent U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who officially opened the Games. These were the first Summer Olympic Games under the IOC presidency of Juan Antonio Samaranch.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1932 Summer Olympics</span> Multi-sport event in Los Angeles, California, US

The 1932 Summer Olympics were an international multi-sport event held from July 30 to August 14, 1932, in Los Angeles, California, United States. The Games were held during the worldwide Great Depression, with some nations not traveling to Los Angeles; 37 nations competed, compared to the 46 in the 1928 Games in Amsterdam, and even then-U.S. President Herbert Hoover did not attend the Games. The organizing committee did not report the financial details of the Games, although contemporary newspapers claimed that the Games had made a profit of US$1,000,000.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1928 Summer Olympics</span> Multi-sport event in Amsterdam, Netherlands

The 1928 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the IX Olympiad and commonly known as Amsterdam 1928, was an international multi-sport event that was celebrated from 28 July to 12 August 1928 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city of Amsterdam had previously bid for the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games, but was obliged to give way to war-torn Antwerp in Belgium for the 1920 Games and Pierre de Coubertin's Paris for the 1924 Games.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1932 Winter Olympics</span> Multi-sport event in Lake Placid, New York, US

The 1932 Winter Olympics, officially known as the III Olympic Winter Games and commonly known as Lake Placid 1932, were a winter multi-sport event in the United States, held in Lake Placid, New York, United States. The games opened on February 4 and closed on February 13. It was the first of four Winter Olympics held in the United States; Lake Placid hosted again in 1980.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2004 Summer Paralympics</span> Multi-parasport event in Athens, Greece

The 2004 Summer Paralympics, the 12th Summer Paralympic Games, were a major international multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities governed by the International Paralympic Committee, held in Athens, Greece from 17 to 28 September 2004. 3,808 athletes from 136 countries participated. During these games 304 World Records were broken with 448 Paralympic Games Records being broken across 19 different sports. 8,863 volunteers worked along the Organizing Committee.

Olympic Stadium is the name usually given to the main stadium of an Olympic Games. An Olympic stadium is the site of the opening and closing ceremonies. Many, though not all, of these venues actually contain the words Olympic Stadium as part of their names, such as stadiums in Amsterdam, Berlin, Helsinki and Paris. Olympic Stadium may also be named a multi-purpose stadium which hosts Olympic sports.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1996 Summer Olympics medal table</span> Award

The 1996 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXVI Olympiad, were a summer multi-sport event held in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, from July 19 to August 4. A total of 10,339 athletes from 197 nations participated in 271 events in 26 sports across 37 disciplines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bids for the Olympic Games</span> Bids to host the Olympic Games

National Olympic Committees that wish to host an Olympic Games select cities within their territories to put forth bids for the Olympic Games. The staging of the Paralympic Games is automatically included in the bid. Since the creation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894, which successfully appropriated the name of the Ancient Greek Olympics to create a modern sporting event, interested cities have rivaled for selection as host of the Summer or Winter Olympic Games. 51 different cities have been chosen to host the modern Olympics: three in Eastern Europe, five in East Asia, one in South America, three in Oceania, nine in North America and all the others in Western Europe. No Central American, African, Central Asian, Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Southeast Asian city has ever been chosen to host an Olympics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Basketball at the Summer Olympics</span> Sport for men consistently since 1936

Basketball at the Summer Olympics has been a sport for men consistently since 1936. Prior to its inclusion as a medal sport, basketball was held as an unofficial demonstration event in 1904 and 1924. Women's basketball made its debut in the Summer Olympics in 1976. FIBA organizes both the men's and women's FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournaments and the Summer Olympics basketball tournaments, which are sanctioned by the IOC.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Greece at the Olympics</span> Performance of Greece at the Olympic Games

Greece has a long presence at the Olympic Games, as they have competed at every Summer Olympic Games, one of only five countries to have done so, and most of the Winter Olympic Games. Greece has hosted the Games twice, both in Athens. As the home of the Ancient Olympic Games it was a natural choice as host nation for the revival of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, while Greece has also hosted the 2004 Summer Olympics. During the parade of nations at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, Greece always enters the stadium first and leads the parade to honor its status as the birthplace of the Olympics, with the notable exception of 2004 when Greece entered last as the host nation. Before the Games the Olympic Flame is lit in Olympia, the site of the Ancient Olympic Games, in a ceremony that reflects ancient Greek rituals and initiates the Olympic torch relay. The flag of Greece is always hoisted in the closing ceremony, along with the flags of the current and the next host country.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bids for the 1996 Summer Olympics</span>

Six cities submitted bids to host the 1996 Summer Olympics, which were awarded to Atlanta, on September 18, 1990. The other candidate cities were Athens (Greece), Toronto (Canada), Melbourne (Australia), Manchester and Belgrade (Yugoslavia).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2028 Summer Olympics</span> Multi-sport event in Los Angeles, California, US

The 2028 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXIV Olympiad, and commonly known as Los Angeles 2028 or LA28, is an upcoming international multi-sport event scheduled to take place from July 14 to 30, 2028, in Los Angeles, California, United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sports in Los Angeles</span> Competitive physical activities in the Los Angeles metropolitan area

The Greater Los Angeles area is home to many professional and collegiate sports teams and has hosted many national and international sporting events. The metropolitan area has twelve major league professional teams: the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Rams, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Angels, LA Galaxy, Los Angeles FC, the Los Angeles Kings, the Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Sparks, the Anaheim Ducks, the Los Angeles Knight Riders of the MLC Major League Cricket, their Minor League Cricket affiliate SoCal Lashings, and Angel City FC of the National Women's Soccer League. The Los Angeles metropolitan area is home to nine universities whose teams compete in various NCAA Division I level sports, most notably the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans. Between them, these Los Angeles area sports teams have won a combined 105 championship titles. Los Angeles area colleges have produced upwards of 200 national championship teams.

The Closing Ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics took place on August 4, 1996, at the Centennial Olympic Stadium in Atlanta, United States at approximately 8:00 PM EDT (UTC−4). It was produced by Don Mischer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Olympic Games ceremony</span> Ceremonial events of the ancient and modern Olympic Games

The Olympic Games ceremonies of the Ancient Olympic Games were an integral part of these Games; the modern Olympic games have opening, closing, and medal ceremonies. Some of the elements of the modern ceremonies date back to the Ancient Games from which the Modern Olympics draw their ancestry. An example of this is the prominence of Greece in both the opening and closing ceremonies. During the 2004 Games, the medal winners received a crown of olive branches, which was a direct reference to the Ancient Games, in which the victor's prize was an olive wreath. The various elements of the ceremonies are mandated by the Olympic Charter, and cannot be changed by the host nation. This requirement of seeking the approval of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) includes the artistic portion of opening and closing ceremonies.

The opening ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics took place in the evening on Friday, July 19 at the Centennial Olympic Stadium, Atlanta, United States. As mandated by the Olympic Charter, the proceedings combined the formal and ceremonial opening of this international sporting event, including welcoming speeches, hoisting of the flags and the parade of athletes, with an artistic spectacle to showcase the host nation's culture and history. The Games were officially opened by President of the United States of America Bill Clinton.


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External videos
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg The Atlanta 1996 Olympic Film on YouTube
Summer Olympics
Preceded by XXVI Olympiad

Succeeded by