20 Years Later: The 1996 Atlanta Olympics

1996 Atlanta Olympic pins

Atlanta History Center’s archive is a treasure trove of Olympics memorabilia

Architectural models of Olympic venues. A lacquered flower bouquet like those presented to gold medalists. Licensed Olympic merchandise, from dolls and key chains to motor oil and wine. Oh, and pins—lots and lots of pins.

Johnnie B. Hall, the Georgia state trooper assigned to Muhammad Ali during the 1996 Olympics, remembers the moment that defined the Atlanta Games

The retired Georgia state trooper recalled the week he spent with “The Greatest,” who on Friday night died at age 74 after being treated in Phoenix hospital for respiratory complications.
1996 Atlanta Olympics Izzy

What is it? An oral history of Izzy, the mascot marketing snafu of Olympic proportions

John Ryan settled on a character that was neither human nor animal. It resembled a blue tear, with hands sprouting three fingers and a thumb, lightning eyebrows, and a big, sheepish grin.
1996 Atlanta Olympics Izzy merchandise

These 26 pieces of Izzy memorabilia were actually created

We recently took a trip to the Izzy archives, where we found memorabilia that in some cases was as strange than the mascot itself.

Atlanta’s true Olympic legacy: Not brick, mortar, or granite

Between three syllables uttered on September 18, 1990, everything changed in Atlanta, and so did our city’s place in the world.

The remains of the games: Ranking our Olympics infrastructure

Atlanta poured $1 billion into an Olympic building frenzy—supplemented by cash from TV rights, corporate sponsorships, and ticket sales. This generated a $5 billion economic impact that summer, and decades of population growth and international investment. But how have those construction projects paid off?
1996 Olympics Billy Payne

Where are they now? Billy Payne

In 1990, when Atlanta beat out Athens to host the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, it was an impressive come-from-behind win, even for a former University of Georgia football star. William “Billy” Porter Payne, an All-SEC defensive end for the Dawgs and Dunwoody real estate lawyer, dreamed up Atlanta’s quixotic bid and served as CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

A Private Payne: For Better or Worse, Billy Payne Remains in the Spotlight

Not so long ago, Billy Payne was the most famous man in Atlanta. He was hailed as a hero, an improbable good old boy who had a dream and forced it to come true. He traveled the world, bridged the gaps between political correctness and corporate interests, made friends with royals dignitaries, helped revive a dying inner city and gave millions of people the experience of a lifetime. He did what he set out to do, and is trying to get back to what he used to do – carry on with his private life. In private.

Fallout

As midnight approached on Friday, July 26, 1996, there were still 15,000 people crowding Centennial Olympic Park. A heat wave that had kept temperatures hovering near 90 degrees for the past week had broken, and there was a cool breeze in the air.

Do the Right Thing: A Police Chief in Luthersville Takes a Chance on Richard Jewell

His office in the back of the Luthersville Town Hall is compact and plain: walls painted off-white, a green Army surplus desk and filing cabinet and two chairs for visitors. Propped up in a corner behind his desk is the odd combination of a shotgun, a rifle and a fishing pole.
Richard Jewell 1996 Atlanta Olympics Bombing

Presumed Guilty

Overzealous. That adjective haunted Richard Jewell long before he became known as the FBI's leading suspect in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing on July 27, 1996.

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