It's hard to believe that Atlanta was home to the 1996 Olympics 2 decades ago. Four Summer Olympic Games have occurred since our city had the privilege of hosting them, and in honor of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games beginning in just a few days, we are flashing back to just a few of the most historic Olympic moments that took place right here in the heart of this city.
The Magnificent 7: Made up of Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Dominique Dawes, Amanda Borden, Jaycie Phelps, Amy Chow, and Kerri Strug, the 1996 USA Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team was the first group to bring home gold for our country. Not only were they dubbed “The Magnificent 7” for their remarkable accomplishment, but when one hears that name, the famous vault landing ankle sprain also comes to mind. We will be sad to see the home of one of the most historic teamwork-makes-the-dream-work moments go, as the Georgia Dome’s demolition date is set for early next year, but we celebrate the history that took place in those walls and in our very own city nearly 20 years ago.
The Legacy of Centennial Olympic Stadium: Costing over 200 million dollars to build in 1993, this 85,000 seat stadium hosted the Opening and Closing ceremony for the 1996 Olympics, along with all of the Track and Field Events. Because the Georgia Dome had been built 4 years earlier, when the Olympics were over, there was no need for another massive stadium in downtown Atlanta. When the Paralympics concluded, The Olympic Committee and the Braves came to an agreement and the famous stadium was converted into a Turner Field in 1997. Now the legacy of Centennial Olympic Stadium, where gold medalist Muhammad Ali brought tears to our eyes as the final torch bearer for the Opening Ceremony, lives on, as Turner Field is soon transforming into multiple developments for Georgia State University.
Michael Johnson’s Gold Shoes: If this video doesn’t make you want to stand up, cheer, and hug a random stranger next to you, we don’t know what will. On August 1, 1996, after winning the 400m at 43.49 seconds, American sprinter, Michael Johnson, made history by also winning the 200m dash at a time of 19.32 seconds. Not only did he beat his own world record (in his fancy golden shoes) that he set at the Olympic Trials just 6 weeks prior, but he is the only athlete ever to win both the 200m and 400m events at the same Olympic Games. While his 200m record was defeated by Usain Bolt in 2008, Johnson still defends his record in the 400m event.
Tragedy in Centennial Olympic Park: While the terrorist events of July 27, 1996 don’t bring back the best memories like the ones above, the bomb that killed two and injured 111 disturbed the world and will always be associated with our Olympics- full of gold medals and glory but also terror. What was once a gathering spot to celebrate the spirit of the Olympics later became a catalyst for downtown development, fueled by such a shocking event. Now this venue has come full circle, as it is a gathering place for concerts, picnics, and walks, along with being surrounded by the College Football Hall of Fame, the World of Coke, the Georgia Aquarium, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
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