Atlanta United States, 1996

Legacy of the Games

For the very first time, every recognised National Olympic Committee in existence at the time was represented at the Olympic Games. A total of 197 nations were represented and the combined total of athletes was over 10,000. Twenty-four countries made their Olympic debut this year, including eleven of the ex-Soviet countries which had competed as part of the Unified Team at the 1992 Games. Russia competed independently for the first time since 1912.

These Games saw the demise of the demonstration events. In previous years the organising committees had been allowed to include demonstration sports and events in the Olympic programme. They were however very expensive and time-consuming to prepare and stage and at the 95th session of the International Olympic Committee in 1989 in Puerto Rico it was decided to discontinue them from the Atlanta Games onward.

A pipe bomb was detonated in the Centennial Olympic Park, close to but not part of the Olympic venues, in July 1996, during the Games. The explosion killed two people and injured many more.

Preparations for the Olympics lasted more than six years and had a massive economic impact on the City of Atlanta. Over two million people visited the city during the Games, and approximately 3.5 billion more around the world watched part of the Games on television. The Games, although criticised for over-commercialization and marred by the tragedy of the bombing, were a financial success and had a profound effect on the city in the years that followed, effectively transforming Atlanta into the modern city that it is today.

In addition to international recognition, the Atlanta Games resulted in many infrastructure improvements. The mid-rise dormitories built for the Olympic Village became the first residential housing for Georgia State University and are now used by the Georgia Institute of Technology. The Centennial Olympic Stadium itself was converted into the home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team for the 1997 season. Centennial Olympic Park, which was built for the events, remains as a lasting memorial of the Games, initiating a revitalisation of the surrounding area and now serving as the hub of Atlanta’s tourist district.