Friday, August 3, 2012

Olympics: History of the Modern Games : 1996 Atlanta



The Games of the XXVI Olympiad was officially the Centennial Olympics, and held in Atlanta, Georgia, United States in 1996. Atlanta was the third American city to host the Olympic Games. One hundred and ninety seven (197) IOC member nations took part in the Games, comprising 10,318 athletes. Beach volleyball became an Olympic event and remains the only event to be played barefoot.



The opening ceremony featured 500 cheerleaders and 30 pickup trucks. The Olympic song "The Power of the Dream" was composed by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and David Foster, with words by Linda Thompson and performed in the opening ceremony by CĂ©line Dion accompanied by David Foster on the piano, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Centennial Choir (Morehouse College Glee Club, Spelman College Glee Club and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus).



For the torch ceremony, more than 10,000 Olympic torches were manufactured by the American Meter Company and electroplated by Erie Plating Company. Each torch weighed about 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) and was made primarily of aluminum, with a Georgia pecan wood handle and gold ornamentation. The 1996 Games were given a dramatic and emotional start when the cauldron was lit by sporting legend Muhammad Ali.



Atlanta's heavy reliance on corporate sponsorship caused European Olympic officials to consider the Games to be overly commercialized. Coca-Cola, whose corporate headquarters is in Atlanta, received criticism for being the exclusive drink offered in Olympic venues. The city licensed street vendors who sold certain products over others, and therefore provided a presence for companies who were not official Olympic sponsors. In defense, the organizing committee stated the heavy corporate sponsorship was part of America's culture of capitalism. Atlanta relied on. Commercial sponsorship and ticket sales resulted in an overall profit of $10 million.



The battle between manufacturers of shoes was at its height. Official USOC sponsor Reebok were the official footwear supplier but other companies launched massive promotions. Much ambush advertising was in evidence with Nike attempting to promote the rings logo on their track and sportswear kits. Reebok made use of Olympic-themed billboards throughout Atlanta while, Nike's marketing success lay in the presence of its "Niketown" which was located on the cusp of Centennial Olympic Park. Nike's message of being involved with the Olympics successfully reached the television audience.



At a press conference before the 100m final sprinter, Linford Christie (UK) wore Puma contact lenses.



The mascot for the games was Izzy, an animated character resembling an amorphous amoeba and designed by a compurer program. Arguably Izzy (derived from what is it?) was the least popular mascot and the Olympic Committee banned it from appearing at the opening and closing ceremonies. Izzy remained conspicuously absent before, after, and during the 1996 Atlanta Games.



Track and field photo finishes were computerized in colour for the first time. Donovan Bailey (Canada) won the men's 100 m, setting a new world record of 9.84 seconds at that time. He also anchored his team's gold in the 4x100 m relay.



Michael"The Man With the Golden Shoes" Johnson (US) entered the Olympic finals donning a custom-designed pair of golden-colored Nike racing spikes made with Zytel. Sources differ on the exact weight of the shoes and the manufacturer claims they weighed 3 ounces (85 g) each. Other sources state each shoe weighed about 94 grams (3.3 oz). The shoes had five grams of gold weaved into their fabric. The left shoe was a US size 10.5 while the right shoe was a US size 11, to account for Johnson's shorter left foot. He won gold in both the 200 m and 400 m, setting a new world record of 19.32 seconds in the 200 m.



Johnson wore mustard coloured Nikes when he won the 400m in an Olympic-record 43.49 seconds. After the race, he tossed his gold shoes into the crowd. as a celebration.



Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) won gold in the 10,000m at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics (2000). He grew up running barefoot and refused to wear customised shoes until he ended the 10,000m with bloody toes and blisters from the track in Atlanta which was designed for sprinting and too hard for the distance runners.



Kerri Strug of the United States women's gymnastics injured her left ankle on a vault landing during competition. She thought she needed to gain a better score to secure gold and took part in a second vault in severe agony. She scored a 9.712.



The Games were marred by the Centennial Olympic Park bombing . A security Guard discovered a pipe bomb and immediately notified law enforcement and helped evacuate as many people as possible from the area before it exploded. Although the Guard’s quick actions was credited for saving many lives two people died and a further 111 were injured.



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