Atlanta 1996

Atlanta 1996

The Atlanta Olympics was a Games of extremes: outstanding sporting action on the field, and a string of organisational problems and serious disasters off it. The low point of the Games was the terrorist bombing of the packed CentennialPark, killing an Olympic fan. The transportation system struggled to cope with the crowds, some official buses getting lost on their way to venues, as summer temperatures soared to sweltering levels. Yet through the tragedy of the bombing and the blunders of organisers, the excellence of competition did much to revive spirits and inspire others.

The Games began with a flourish with a trembling Muhammad Ali, boxing gold medal winner in 1960, lighting the Olympic flame during the Opening Ceremony. He was cheered by athletes from 197 nations, 28 more teams than had ever before attended the Games. It would be the United States that would lead the medal table with 44 gold, with American swimmer Amy van Dyken’s haul of four gold medals the best of any athlete of 1996. The program was expanded to 26 sports and 271 events, with softball, mountain biking and beach volleyball among the inclusions.

Australia at these Games

In 1993 Sydney had been elected by the International Olympic Committee to host the 2000 Olympics. Atlanta was the first Games after that famous decision, and it helped to spark even greater interest in Australia’s Olympic campaign than usual. Not that much extra impetus was needed – in preparation for Sydney, Australia sent a record team of 424 athletes, 254 men and 170 women, to the Atlanta Games. Most notable is the number of women, easily more than double the then-record 74 women who had competed in Seoul just eight years earlier. The team’s size was matched by its talent, with Australia achieving its greatest ever Olympic result in winning 41 medals: nine gold, nine silver and 23 bronze.

Andrew Hoy, a team gold medallist in three-day eventing in 1992 and competing in his fourth Olympics, carried the flag in the Opening Ceremony. It proved a worthy choice, Hoy again winning a gold medal when he, Phillip Dutton, Gillian Rolton and Wendy Schaeffer successfully defended the team eventing title.

Two other repeat champions were swimmer Kieren Perkins and rowing’s men’s coxless four, both winners in 1992. Perkins thrilled Australian audiences by first scraping into the Australian Olympic team, then taking the eighth (and last) qualifying place in the 1500m freestyle final before swimming a remarkable race from an outside lane to win the gold medal. Teammate Daniel Kowalski won the silver medal, plus two bronze medals in the 200m freestyle and 400m freestyle.

The Oarsome Foursome had a new look for Atlanta, with Drew Ginn replacing Andrew Cooper, who had retired after Barcelona. But the result was the same as Ginn, Nick Green, Mike McKay and James Tomkins again won gold – in a racing shell named Andrew Cooper in their mate’s honour. McKay carried the Australian flag at the Closing Ceremony.

Swimming and rowing also provided new gold medallists. Susie O’Neill won the women’s 200m butterfly, as well as a silver and a bronze medal in relay events. Rowers Megan Marcks (then Still) and Kate Slatter won the women’s coxless pair, the first Australian women to win rowing gold.

At the shooting range, Australia was in for a double surprise. Shotgun shooters Russell Mark (double trap) and Michael Diamond (trap) each won gold medals. Australia’s only previous shooting victory had been in 1900 – and Donald Mackintosh’s win at those Paris Games wasn’t confirmed until 1992. Mark and Diamond would each mount strong defences of their titles in 2000.

The Hockeyroos, Australia’s women’s hockey team, won its second gold medal in three Olympics. Coached by four-time Olympian Ric Charlesworth, the team boasted such stars as Alyson Annan, Rechelle Hawkes and Nova Peris, who was to represent Australia in athletics at Sydney 2000. There was also gold medal success for the popular tennis doubles team of Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge. The Woodies entered the Games as the world’s top-ranked doubles team. Their win was Australia’s first in tennis at the Games.

Other strong results were achieved across the sports, from Cathy Freeman's tenacious silver medal in the 400m on the track to bronze medals in the new events of beach volleyball and softball. It was a Games of many highlights and surprises for Australia, with much to celebrate and plenty to look forward to in Sydney in four years' time.

Australian Olympians At The Games

Flag Bearers

Olympian Name Ceremony
Andrew Hoy Opening
Mike McKay Closing

Australian Medallists At The Games

Olympian Name Sport Medals
Brett Aitken Cycling - Track
1
Kate Allen (Slatter) Rowing
1
Al Annan (Caldas) Hockey
1
Deserie Baynes (Huddleston) Shooting
1
Colin Beashel Sailing
1
Mitch Booth Sailing
1
Katrin Borchert Canoe/Kayak - Sprint
1
Stefan Botev Weightlifting
1
Carla Boyd Basketball
1
Michelle Brogan Basketball
1
Sandy Brondello Basketball
1
Joanne Brown (Alchin) Softball
1
Stuart Carruthers Hockey
1
Lisa Carruthers (Powell) Hockey
1
Baeden Choppy Hockey
1
Michelle Chandler (Cleary) Basketball
1
Daniel Collins Canoe/Kayak - Sprint
1
Nat Cook Beach Volleyball
1
Kim Cooper (Maguire) Softball
1
Carolyn Crudgington Softball
1
Lou Currey (McPaul) Athletics
1
Stephen Davies Hockey
1
Helen Denman Swimming
1
Steven Dewick Swimming
1
Michael Diamond Shooting
1
Kerry Dienelt Softball
1
Damon Diletti Hockey
1
Louise Dobson Hockey
1
Lachie Dreher Hockey
1
Phillip Dutton Equestrian - Eventing
1
Peta Edebone Softball
1
Anthony Edwards Rowing
1
Lachlan Elmer Hockey
1
Trish Fallon Basketball
1
Michelle Ferris Cycling - Track
1
Duncan Free Rowing
1
Cathy Freeman Athletics
1
Renita Garard (Farrell) Hockey
1
Brendan Garard Hockey
1
Paul Gaudoin Hockey
1
David Giles Sailing
1
Drew Ginn Rowing
1
Scott Goodman Swimming
1
Nick Green Rowing
1
Julia Greville (Radley) Swimming
1
Toby Haenen Swimming
1
Mark Hager Hockey
1
Fiona Hannan (Robinson) Basketball
1
Boden Hanson Rowing
1
Tanya Harding Softball
1
Juliet Haslam Hockey
1
Rechelle Hawkes Hockey
1
Bruce Hick Rowing
1
Jenny Holliday (Lisle) Softball
1
Janusz Hooker Rowing
1
Andrew Hoy Equestrian - Eventing
1
Emma Johnson Swimming
1
Rebecca Joyce Rowing
1
Michael Klim Swimming
1
Daniel Kowalski Swimming
1
2
Andrew Landenberger Sailing
1
Virginia Lee (Koo) Rowing
1
Joyce Lester Softball
1
Paul Lewis Hockey
1
Nicole Livingstone (Stevenson) Swimming
1
1
Lise Mackie Swimming
1
Robyn Maher (Gull) Basketball
1
Clover Maitland Hockey
1
Megan Marcks (Still) Rowing
1
Russell Mark Shooting
1
Karen Marsden Hockey
1
Sally McCreedy (McDermid) Softball
1
Bradley McGee Cycling - Track
2
Mike McKay Rowing
1
Frankie McRae Softball
1
Scott Miller Swimming
1
1
Shelley Mitchell (Andrews) Hockey
1
Jenny Morris Hockey
1
Stuart O'Grady Cycling - Track
2
Susie O'Neill Swimming
1
1
1
Tim O'Shannessey Cycling - Track
1
Jackie Pereira Hockey
1
Nova Peris Hockey
1
Kieren Perkins Swimming
1
Haylea Petrie Softball
1
Kerri Pottharst Beach Volleyball
1
Katrina Powell Hockey
1
Nicole Richardson Softball
1
Sam Riley Swimming
1
1
Clint Robinson Canoe/Kayak - Sprint
1
Melanie Roche Softball
1
Danni Roche Hockey
1
Phil Rogers Swimming
1
Gil Rolton Equestrian - Eventing
1
Sarah Ryan Swimming
1
Shelley Sandie (Gorman) Basketball
1
Wendy Schaeffer Equestrian - Eventing
1
Robert Scott Rowing
1
Matthew Smith Hockey
1
Grant Smith Hockey
1
Ron Snook Rowing
1
Rachael Sporn Basketball
1
Daniel Sproule Hockey
1
Jay Stacy Hockey
1
Kathryn Starre Hockey
1
Petria Thomas Swimming
1
Michele Timms Basketball
1
James Tomkins Rowing
1
Liane Tooth Hockey
1
Allison Tranquilli (Cook) Basketball
1
Andrew Trim Canoe/Kayak - Sprint
1
Lucy Tyler-Sharman (Tyler) Cycling - Track
1
Natalie Ward Softball
1
Ken Wark Hockey
1
David Weightman Rowing
1
Jenny Whittle Basketball
1
Brooke Wilkins Softball
1
Anna Wood (Cox) Canoe/Kayak - Sprint
1
Todd Woodbridge Tennis
1
Mark Woodforde Tennis
1
Dean Woods Cycling - Track
1
Angie Woodward (Kennedy) Swimming
1
Michael York Hockey
1

History

The Atlanta Olympics was a Games of extremes: outstanding sporting action on the field, and a string of organisational problems and serious disasters off it. The low point of the Games was the terrorist bombing of the packed CentennialPark, killing an Olympic fan. The transportation system struggled to cope with the crowds, some official buses getting lost on their way to venues, as summer temperatures soared to sweltering levels. Yet through the tragedy of the bombing and the blunders of organisers, the excellence of competition did much to revive spirits and inspire others.

The Games began with a flourish with a trembling Muhammad Ali, boxing gold medal winner in 1960, lighting the Olympic flame during the Opening Ceremony. He was cheered by athletes from 197 nations, 28 more teams than had ever before attended the Games. It would be the United States that would lead the medal table with 44 gold, with American swimmer Amy van Dyken’s haul of four gold medals the best of any athlete of 1996. The program was expanded to 26 sports and 271 events, with softball, mountain biking and beach volleyball among the inclusions.

The best action was in the main stadium, where one of the great Olympic athletics meets was held. The sport provided many heroes. American Michael Johnson made history by winning the 200m/400m double, both times shattering the world record, and won a third gold medal in the 4x400m relay. Carl Lewis won his fourth consecutive gold medal in the long jump to end his career with a record-equalling nine gold medals. South Africa celebrated its first black Olympic champion when Josiah Thugwane scored a memorable victory in the men’s marathon on the final day of the Games. In women’s events, France’s Marie-Jose Perec scored her own historic 200m/400m double, most memorably running down a determined Cathy Freeman in the final straight of the 400m. American Gail Devers won her second successive 100m gold medal, and Syria’s Ghada Shouaa became a hero to millions of Arab women in winning the heptathlon.

Other sports produced equally exciting results and worthy heroes. In cycling, five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain of Spain won the road time trial. China’s Fu Mingxia won the women’s 3m springboard and 10m platform diving double. Her teammate Deng Yaping became the first four-time gold medallist in table tennis by defending her singles and doubles crowns from 1992. Volleyball added beach volleyball to its program, and the great Karch Kiraly, winner of two indoor gold medals, partnered Kent Steffes to win the US the men’s event. Russia’s Alexander Popov successfully defended his 50m and 100m freestyle titles in the pool. Turkish weightlifting supremo Naim Suleymanoglu lifted more than three times his bodyweight to secure a record third consecutive gold in the 64kg division. Americans Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport were popular singles gold medallists in tennis.

Australian champions such as Kieren Perkins and rowing’s Oarsome Foursome were also mentioned among the best performers of the Games.

Games Trivia

Emblem

The torch depicted in the Atlanta logo consists of the five Olympic rings and the number 100. Atlanta 1996 marked 100 years since the first modern summer Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896.

Motto

The motto of the Atlanta Games was "Celebration of the Century".

Mascot

Izzy was the official mascot of the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics. Izzy was first introduced at the Closing Cermenoy of the Barcelona 1992 Games as 'Whatizit' (What is it?). Unlike the Olympic mascots before it, Izzy did not represent a nationally-significant animal or human figure. Instead Izzy was a computer animated figure with the ability to morph into different forms.

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Gold and silver medals must be made of 92.5 percent pure silver; the gold medal must be gilded with at least six grams of gold.