Special to the Daily World
The 1996 Centennial Olympic Games changed Atlanta forever – and accelerated its transformation from southern capital to international city. For seventeen days, Atlanta was the focus of the entire world. Those seventeen days in 1996 represented a decade’s worth of aspirations, strivings, and triumphs. That remarkable achievement is preserved and celebrated within the Centennial Olympic Games Museum at the Atlanta History Center. With its spectacular collection of multimedia presentations, artifacts, images, and interactive displays, and a second level dedicated to an interactive Sports Lab, the Centennial Olympic Games Museum at the Atlanta History Center houses one of the most significant exhibitions on Olympic sport and history in the United States.
Located in the 27,500-square-foot Fentener van Vlissingen Family Wing, the museum guides visitors through the history of the Olympic movement – from the inception of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece to the history of the modern Olympic Games beginning in 1896 to the seventeen days of the Centennial Olympic Games and their legacy.
As visitors enter the Centennial Olympic Games Museum, which is directly connected to the Atlanta History Museum, they are walking across history as they traverse the maple flooring from the 1996 Olympic basketball court where the U.S. men’s and women’s teams won gold.
The exhibition comprehensively tells the story of the Olympic movement, while focusing on the 1996 Olympic Games. The full story of the Centennial Olympic Games is explored and interpreted – including how the city won the Games, how the Games changed Atlanta, a day-by-day chronology, heroes and special moments, event-specific results and records, the global context of the Games and their legacy. Through the use of thirteen interactive computer kiosks and an “Olympic Mania” trivia game, each visitor can create a personal experience while tracking his or her score based on a series of questions on Olympic sport and history. Personal scores are revealed on a scoreboard at the end of the exhibition as the participant stands on a victory platform from the Olympic Games. Visitors will encounter eight sections in the Centennial Olympic Games Museum:
Origins of the Games; Modern Olympic Games and the Olympic Games experience, are highlights of the exhibition.
This semicircular rotunda rises two stories and provides space for school groups and public gatherings. Surrounded by five large columns modeled after the light towers at Centennial Olympic Park, a series of five flat screens plays a series of videos depicting “The Centennial Olympic Games Experience,” capturing the spirit and emotion of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
This section also examines how the most powerful symbol of the Olympic Games – the Olympic Torch – made its way to Atlanta. The Centennial Olympic Torch Relay spanned an 84 day odyssey across the country and traveled 16,000 miles before Muhammad Ali lit the official cauldron, which is still located near Turner Field. The Centennial Olympic Torch, paired with the ceremonial cauldron and a video presentation, brings to light the efforts of the 13,000 Community Heroes who were part of bringing the Olympic flame to Atlanta.
A tribute to the more than 50,000 volunteers who contributed their efforts to the Centennial Olympic Games are recognized through artifacts and a digital scrolling screen of each volunteer’s name. In addition, visitors are introduced to the variety of licensed merchandise created for the 1996 Olympic Games, as well as the economic impact that opportunity had on the city of Atlanta. Revenue from Atlanta Games merchandise provided 50% of the construction costs for the Centennial Olympic Stadium.
For more information on Atlanta History Center offerings, hours of operation, and admission, call 404.814.4000 or visit AtlantaHistoryCenter.com.