Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics | WABE 90.1 FM

Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics

Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

The 1996 Summer Olympics marked the 100th anniversary of the modern games and the first Olympics in the Southeast U.S. The event brought the eyes of the world onto Atlanta, ushering in a series of long-lasting changes to the city. Twenty years later, WABE looks back at the impact of the Olympic Games on Atlanta.

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Like the interlocking Olympic Rings, WABE is partnered with ArtsATL for a look back at the 1996 Cultural Olympiad, which brought Atlanta to the world as the world’s eyes were on Atlanta.

Join us for City Lights, weekdays at 11 a.m., as we speak with the pillars of Atlanta’s arts community responsible for highlighting the culture of the Southeast.

Photos of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia taken on Thursday, January 29, 2015. (Photo/Brenna Beech; brennabeech17@att.net)
Brenna Beech / WABE

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here

Gabbie Watts / WABE

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.   

Courtesy of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.   

Former Atlanta Symphony director and choral giant Robert Shaw was given a daunting task during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Rick Bowmer / Associated Press

"How could The New Yorker display ignorance? Not only was that depiction of Atlanta insulting, it was entirely wrong. Was the editorial staff unaware that Atlanta was urban, not rural?"

Lois Reitzes reflects on the controversial cover of The New Yorker released on July 22, 1996 and the cultural misconceptions of the South that continue to haunt us at ArtsATL.

Brian Hainer

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.  

Composer Michael Torke has had a robust musical career, and one of his pieces was included in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Freddy Bensch co-founded SweetWater with his friend Kevin McNerney. On February 17, 1997, they sold their first keg of beer.
SweetWater Brewing Company

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.  

Gabbie Watts / WABE

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here. 

Courtesy of Leslie Gordon

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here  

Twenty years ago, the Olympic Games brought the world’s athletes to Atlanta. It also brought Nobel laureates.

Atlanta Olympic Band uniforms hang on display at the 20-year reunion.
Mary Claire Kelly / WABE

Over 20 years ago, hundreds of teenagers and young adults from all over Georgia played in the Atlanta Olympic Band. For four years, high school and college students devoted their extracurricular time to hours of practice each week, until the program culminated in the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.

In July, some former players – along with parents, former volunteers and plus-ones – gathered for a reunion at Lakeside High School in DeKalb County.

Trumpeter Jill Sewell had the idea to get a 20-year reunion together.

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here

Courtesy Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Imagine this: It's your 11th birthday. Some lady you don't know takes your photo at Centennial Olympic Park. Next thing you know, your face is on prominent display at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where it remains for 15 years.

For ArtsATL.com and WABE's ‪‎Atlanta's Cultural Olympiad programming, ArtsATL executive editor Laura Relyea interviews Lori Cord about her experience being included in Deborah Whitehouse's 70-foot mural, "The Spirit of Atlanta".

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Alison Guillory / WABE

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.

Alison Guillory / WABE

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.

The Centennial Olympic Games have left a lasting impact on the city of Atlanta. Centennial Olympic Park is still a popular and frequently crowded park, full of families and young children playing in the iconic Olympic rings fountain constructed 20 years ago.

Alison Guillory / WABE

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.

Andrew Young is a lion of the civil rights movement, former U.S. congressman, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and, in the late 1980s, the mayor of Atlanta. A small group, led by Billy Payne, recruited Young's support to try to bring the 1996 Summer Olympic Games to Atlanta.

Bob Galbraith / Associated Press

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.

Editor's note: This story includes language and some descriptions of violence.

Courtesy of ArtsATL

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here. To read the whole story on ArtsATL, click here.

Spencer Weiner / Associated Press

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.

Sept. 18, 1990. Maynard Jackson was serving his third term as mayor when, on that September day in Tokyo, the president of the International Olympic Committee announced that Atlanta had won the bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

Kyra Semien / WABE

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.   

Many Atlanta residents can recall where they were, and what they were doing during the 1996 Olympics.  

Michael Probst / Associated Press

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.

Twenty years ago, athletes from all over the world came to Atlanta to compete in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

On Saturday, some of those athletes and Atlanta officials remembered what it was like to be in the midst of the games that put Atlanta on the map as a globally recognized city.

Courtesy of the Alliance Theatre

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.

Atlanta playwright Pearl Cleage’s "Blues for an Alabama Sky" has been called a masterpiece and is her most-performed play.

Stephannie Stokes, Historic American Buildings Survey / WABE, Library of Congress

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here. 

Walking down Merritts Avenue, at the edge of Centennial Place, Renee Glover points out the townhomes with well-groomed landscapes.

“As you can see, it’s a beautiful community,” Glover said. “It’s quiet.”

Glover directed the Atlanta Housing Authority during the 1996 Olympics.

Alison Guillory / WABE

 This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here. 

Pete Menzies and his 6-year-old son, Dylan, are in line to order milkshakes at a snack booth in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.

“Chocolate,” comes Dylan’s request when asked what flavor he wants, mumbled into his dad's leg.

Dylan is in the middle of a weeklong aquarium “camp.”

Charlie McCullers / ArtsATL

This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here. To read the whole story on ArtsATL, click here.

Luca Bruno / Associated Press

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here. 

Did you stand at Centennial Olympic Park 20 years ago ─ shirt and hat bedazzled with shiny enamel pins, a fanny pack around your waist and stuffed with necessities for the Atlanta heat, and an Izzy doll in hand?

Nike and ACOG

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.

Nike designers have created a new pair of Air Trainer SC High ATL sneakers to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Olympics Games in Atlanta.

Greg Gibson / Associated Press

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.

William Porter “Billy” Payne served as Chief Executive Officer of the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games. He is better known, though, as the Atlanta Games’ “father.” He sat down with WABE's Lisa George to talk about the genesis of bringing the games here.

Dustin Grau

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here. 

The 1996 Summer Olympic Games were a memorable experience for many in Atlanta at the time. Whether they worked the games, played an instrument in the opening ceremony, attended events or were simply watching from afar, Atlantans were involved in the international games at all levels.

Al Such / WABE

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here. 

It was September 1990, and the International Olympic Committee in Tokyo was about to announce the winning city to host the 100th anniversary of the games. Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain addressed the crowd.

Alison Guillory / WABE

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.    

On a sunny summer day in downtown Atlanta, students dart across the main plaza of Georgia State University, with very few students lingering in the stagnant, 90-degree heat.  

Martha Dalton / WABE

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.  

When the Summer Olympics came to Atlanta 20 years ago, organizers had to build dozens of sporting venues from scratch.

The price tag was $1.7 billion. All the money was raised through private donations.

Two decades later, some venues are thriving, while others have languished.