Atlanta '96.

Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City.

In 1996, Atlanta hosted the Centennial Olympic Games and the tenth Paralympic Games.

 

Nearly twenty-five years later, this signature exhibition considers the impact of the Games on the city and our lives. The Games mean something different to everyone, including individuals involved in preparations, people living near venues, competitors, and fans. The exhibition places the recent past within the context of Atlanta’s longer history of reinvention and growth initiatives, prompting visitors to think about how we can change the places in which we live.

Atlanta ’96 tells new stories and expands on memories of the city’s Olympic and Paralympic history. Drawn from Atlanta History Center’s distinctive collections, the exhibition creates a visitor experience filled with iconic and unexpected objects. It includes memorabilia from athletes and fans, archival materials that look behind the scenes at the experience of a host city, vintage video footage, and specially developed touchless interactive activities. The exhibition invites visitors to examine the people, events, and decisions that shaped the Games as well as the Atlanta we know today.

Featured Image Izzy, mascot of the 1996 Olympic Games, Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, circa 1996. Gift of Georgia Amateur Athletic Foundation, 2002.

Atlanta '96: Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City

Click the video and learn more about the making of this exhibition.

Atlanta ’96: Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City kicks off with a timeline that situates the Games in both the context of modern Olympic cities and Atlanta’s 20th-century quest for growth and status. This chronology shows precedents and influences of Atlanta’s experience hosting the Games.

The core of the exhibition invites visitors to examine the massive civic undertaking of the Games, breaking down the endeavor into four distinct themes.

Envisioning

The initial theme of envisioning rewinds to the decades before the Olympic and Paralympic Games to consider the stories of eleven notable changemakers of Atlanta’s recent history, including former mayors, artists, athletes, activists, philanthropists, and disability rights advocates. These profiles capture a cross-section of Atlanta during the 1970s and 1980s and highlight the different ways that individuals wanted to change their city for the better.

Campaigning

Through the lens of campaigning, this section examines how ideas for change in Atlanta materialized in the lead up to the summer of 1996. It tells the story of Atlanta’s bid for the 1996 Olympic Games and the pursuit of public support, while also highlighting parallel endeavors including the push to host the Paralympic Games, the Olympics Out of Cobb protest movement, and urban improvement initiatives. Collectively, these stories reveal the way that actions and ambitions clashed and collaborated with the all-consuming project of the Games.

Realizing

This theme highlights the local and global ripple effects of the work of producing the Games. It presents the stories of new infrastructure, building and repurposing venues, and stagecraft that relied on volunteers, labor forces, and new ideas. It also considers how these efforts impacted those living in venue-adjacent neighborhoods, changed technology, reshaped urban landscapes, and added layers to neighborhood histories.  This section provides visitors with the opportunity to relive Olympic and Paralympic moments, learn about athletes, and see how Atlanta’s Games became a stage for social and political issues that extended well beyond the walls of the venues.

Reflecting

By reflecting on what changed, what is remembered, and what is studied from the Games in Atlanta, this final section invites visitors to think critically about the benefits and costs of large projects in general. It asks visitors to use the changes of the past as examples to think about the future of Atlanta and their ideal vision for their own communities.

Next: 1 Collections.

After the Games ended, Atlanta History Center was designated as the repository for the collections of the Georgia Amateur Athletic Foundation, the non-profit behind the organizing committee of the 1996 Olympic bid and Games