The Games of the XXVI Olympiad: Atlanta, 1996
From the moment that the president of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, announced that the Centennial Olympic Games had been awarded to Atlanta, Georgia, in a narrow decision over sentimental favorite Athens, Greece, American fans and athletes could feel the excitement. Atlanta became a city transformed by new athletic facilities, hotels, and a glorious park. These would truly be the Games of the people--with 11,000,000 tickets available, more than Barcelona and Seoul put together. Nearly 11,000 athletes would compete, more than ever before. And, for the first time in Olympic history, every country involved in the Olympic movement would send a team. Even a threatened boycott by North Korea was averted with some negotiations by Georgia native former President Jimmy Carter, and 197 national delegations paraded into Centennial Olympic Stadium on a glorious moonlit evening. The Atlanta Games were universal, and while the vicious bomb attack on Centennial Olympic Park that killed two people and injured over 100 on the day before the women's marathon changed the mood of the Games, it did anything but destroy the Olympics. In fact, it brought the spectators and athletes together even more than before, and made every participant in these Games--athletes, fans, coaches, officials, and volunteers--share in the experience of triumphing over adversity and fear.
That experience is one that Olympic marathoners know only too well, and while the fans of America rejoiced in the choice of Atlanta, world-class marathoners reacted in a different way to the IOC's announcement--they