July 19

Atlanta Olympics Begin

July 19, 1996 - Atlanta

For 17 days in 1996, Atlanta was the center of the world.

In 1990, the International Olympic Committee chose Atlanta for the site of the centennial Olympics over five other cities. The games were the brainchild of Atlanta attorney Billy Payne. He and Mayor Andrew Young were the prime architects of the winning bid.

The games brought 2 million visitors with an economic impact of $5.14 billion. Television rights and corporate sponsors offset the $1.7 billion costs, but there were complaints: over-commercialized said some. Many also complained of transportation and accommodation problems. A pipe-bomb explosion in Centennial Park killed two people. But for the first time, all nations invited sent athletes to the games. More than 10,000 athletes from 197 nations competed in 271 events.

Centennial Olympic Park, Turner Field, and increased investment and tourism are all legacies of the ’96 Summer Games.

The largest event in Atlanta history began with the opening ceremonies on July 19, 1996, Today in Georgia History.