By Grace Huseth
As the Summer Olympic Games get ready to begin in Rio de Janeiro this August, Atlanta reflects on its moment of hosting the best athletes in the world 20 years ago.
The largest 1996 Olympic Games remembrance will take place at Centennial Olympic Park on July 16. The park will honor the Games with a free, public celebration. The event will begin at 5 p.m. with musical guests, remarks from past organizers and Olympic athletes and will end with a fireworks display.
Morgan Smith-Williams, who handles pubic relations for Centennial Olympic Park, said former volunteers and friends of the 1996 Olympics will have the opportunity to reunite and there will color-coded tents to represent the various sports, venues and other support roles so participants can relive the spirit and variety of the Games.
The Centennial Olympic Games Museum at the Atlanta History Center guides visitors throughout the history of the Olympic movement, from the inception of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece through the modern Olympic Games.
The exhibit features athletic drama presented in a panorama that incorporates artifacts, sculpture, photographs, and illuminated panels along an indoor running track. In addition, a media presentation offers large-screen highlights from the Games. Other highlights include America’s only complete collection of Olympic torches and medals.
Howard Pousner, manager of media relations at the Atlanta History Center, said the Centennial Olympic Games Museum will close for renovation Aug. 22, immediately after the Rio de Janeiro Games end. However, new developments make way for an improved history of the Atlanta Olympic Games and a special hallway to connect the atrium to the Cyclorama building. Planning and fund-raising for this new exhibition are ongoing, with reopening targeted for a date to be determined in 2017.
“The new Centennial Olympic Games Museum exhibition will take a larger view of the ’96 Games from a two-decades-later perspective,” Pousner said.
To jumpstart the Olympics season, the Atlanta History Center is hosting a “Going for Gold” event where families can enjoy the spirit of the Games with their own competitive games on the history center’s campus. On July 30 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. visitors can explore the exhibits, meet real Olympians and compete in Olympic-style sports for the chance to win 1996 Olympic memorabilia.