Blog: Looking back at Atlanta 15 years later

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Carl Lewis became one of the few Olympic athletes ever to four-peat an event at the Atlanta games.
This week marks the 15th year anniversary of the city of Atlanta welcoming the world for the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Looking back all of these years later, a lot of memories come back both positively and negatively about those two weeks.

Let’s start with the negative.

Of course, these Games will be remembered mostly for what happened at the Centennial Olympic Park late one night during a concert, when a bomb exploded and put everyone on edge like back in 1972.

Luckily, the Olympics got back on track, but that moment stuck in the minds of the International Olympic Committee members. At the end of the two weeks, the IOC did not have a very favorable response to how Atlanta handed the Olympics.

Other issues that came up were the ongoing traffic jams in the city limits, and some traditionalists did not enjoy all of the commercialism during the Olympics.

However, the United States athletes represented the nation very well in several sports. Like with all Olympics, past winners make way for up-and-coming stars. The U.S. was no different in this viewpoint.

Most of the long-lasting memories came from the track and the swimming pool.

Also, women’s team sports success helped changed how people looked at females on the playing field. A long-time MTSU head coach got to see some of these events first hand.

Blue Raider Track and Field head coach since 1965, Dean Hayes, had a chance to witness history being made.

During these Games, he was a referee for some of the track and field events.

One of those was seeing Carl Lewis become one of the few Olympic athletes ever to four-peat an event.

Lewis had to have a great mark in the final jump in qualifications to give him a chance in the finals.

Of course, Lewis showed why he is one of the best American athletes ever. He got in the finals and got his fourth gold medal in a row in the long jump.

“You can never count him out, because he is so competitive,” Hayes said by phone last week. “Seeing him get that jump in Atlanta was really great.”

As a middle school student that year, my favorite memory of the Games also came on the track.

Michael Johnson won the 200- and 400-meter race with ease. He made it look so effortlessly against very good competition. I was amazed on how perfect his form was, especially with his Nike gold shoes on.

Swimming also did really well in one of the most breath-taking stadiums I have ever seen for a swim meet. I hope I’m not making too much of this, but the way the stadium was formatted just had that special feel to it. Also, I enjoyed seeing American swimmers, Gary Hall Jr., Jenny Thompson, Amy Van Dyken and several others dominated in the pool.

Speaking of the ladies, the basketball, soccer, softball and, of course, gymnastics teams made new stars out of performers that have made all women’s sports better even all of these years later thanks to performers, Kerri Strug, Lisa Leslie, Mia Hamm and Dot Richardson.

The city of Atlanta could not hold all of the events, so even the Volunteer state got involved in bringing the world together.

The Ocoee River played host to the whitewater canoe and kayak events, which included a silver medal performance by kayaker Dana Chladek in the women’s slalom.

In closing, the 1996 Summer Olympics should be remembered for all of the great performances by athletes from around the world in several sports.

However, an unforeseen incident took place off the field and it left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. Will that hurt American’s chances in ever hosting the Summer Olympics, again?

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Dean Hayes, Olympics, Sports, Voices
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