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Atlanta 1996 - Overview

Terror strikes again

Twenty-four years after the Munich massacre, the Atlanta Olympics of 1996 fell victim to a bomb planted in a city centre park by an American right-wing extremist that killed one and injured more than a hundred.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) were swift to declare that the Games would go on.

The bomber was identified and the FBI offered a one million US dollars reward for information leading to his arrest, getting their man five years later.

Two days ahead of the opening ceremony a TWA plane had crashed into the seas off New York killing all 230 passengers. The two incidents led to an atmosphere of paranoia.

The choice of Atlanta had originally caused quite a stir, many believing Athens should have hosted them while during the event itself there was virulent criticism of both rampant consumerism and overt partisanship from the US public.

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch dealt the Games its death blow when he failed in his closing ceremony speech to give the habitual thanks to Atlanta for hosting "the greatest Games ever".

Lewis, Johnson and gymnasts bring home joy

But these unloved Games did in fact provide some excellent sporting spectacles.

America's Michael Johnson managed a groundbreaking double gold in the 200m-400m sprint with the added spice of setting a new world record time of 19.32sec in the shorter race.

Carl Lewis joined Finland's all-time great middle distance runner Paavo Nurmi in the record books by securing his ninth title, which came in the long-jump and was his fourth consecutive gold in the event.

Canadian sprinters forgiven

Canada's Donovan Bailey went some way to erasing the memory of Ben Johnson's shame by winning the 100m sprint and also smashing the world record with a time of 9.84sec.

In women's athletics France's Marie-José Pérec emulated Michael Johnson by winning a rare 200-400m double to go with her 400m title four years earlier.

Russian swimmer Alexander Popov bagged four more Olympic medals including two gold in the 50m and 100m freestyle.

America's female gymnasts must also be remembered in the domestic role of honour as they managed to edge the Russians, many of whom wept, into second and Romania into third in the team event.

Nigeria added some African pride by winning the football gold and Cuban boxer Felix Savon won the heavyweight gold for the second consecutive time.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.


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