In 1987, Atlanta attorney William Porter Payne founded the Georgia Amateur Athletic Foundation with a quest to win the bid for the Centennial Olympic Games for Atlanta. Garnering a largely volunteer force and seeking the guidance of Ambassador Andrew Young, Atlanta won the bid for the United States in 1988. To the astonishment of many, Atlanta was selected in September 1990 by the International Olympic Committee to host the 1996 Games.
For the first time in Olympic history, all invited 197 National Olympic Committees sent delegations, including 10,318 athletes to participate in 271 events in twenty-six sports. A corps of 47,466 volunteers contributed to all aspects of planning and hosting. The Olympic Games were played over sixteen days and the four-year Olympiad leading up the Games, including the torch relay that crossed the country, was staged with $1.7 billion raised through private funding.
"Being awarded the 1996 Summer Olympics was one of the signature moments in the city’s history."
—Tom Odor, Community submission to Atlanta in 50 Objects
The Games contributed to the construction and improvement of many public buildings and facilities in downtown Atlanta, including the Olympic Stadium, which became Turner Field and is now Georgia State's football stadium, and the twenty-one-acre Centennial Olympic Park.