As the Olympic Games get ready to begin in Rio de Janeiro this August, Atlantans are reflecting on their city’s moment of hosting the best athletes in the world 20 years ago.

ATLANTA - AUGUST 25: Children play at Centennial Olympic Park August 25, 2013 in Atlanta, GA. The park commemorates the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Children play at Centennial Olympic Park in August 2013. The park commemorates the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The largest remembrance of the 1996 Olympic Games will take place at Centennial Olympic Park on July 16. The park will honor the Games with a free, public celebration. The event will begin at 5 p.m. with musical guests, remarks from past organizers and Olympic athletes and will end with a fireworks display.

Morgan Smith-Williams, who handles public relations for Centennial Olympic Park, said former volunteers and friends of the 1996 Olympics will have the opportunity to reunite. There will color-coded tents to represent the various sports, venues and other support roles so participants can relive the spirit and variety of the Games, Smith-Williams said.

The Centennial Olympic Games Museum at the Atlanta History Center guides visitors throughout the history of the Olympic movement, from the inception of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece through the modern Olympic Games.

The exhibit features athletic drama presented in a panorama that incorporates artifacts, sculpture, photographs, and illuminated panels along an indoor running track. In addition, a media presentation offers large-screen highlights from the Games. Other highlights include America’s only complete collection of Olympic torches and medals.

Howard Pousner, manager of media relations at the Atlanta History Center, said the Centennial Olympic Games Museum will close for renovation Aug. 22, immediately after the Rio de Janeiro Games end.

Part of the 1996 Summer Olympics display at the Atlanta History Center.
Part of the 1996 Summer Olympics display at the Atlanta History Center.

New developments will make way for an improved history of the Atlanta Olympic Games and a special hallway to connect the atrium to the Cyclorama building, he said. Planning and fundraising for this new exhibition are ongoing, with reopening targeted for a date to be determined in 2017

“The new Centennial Olympic Games Museum exhibition will take a larger view of the ’96 Games from a two-decades-later perspective,” Pousner said.

To jumpstart the Olympics season, the Atlanta History Center is hosting a “Going for Gold” event where families can enjoy the spirit of the Games with their own competitive games on the history center’s campus.

On July 30, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors can explore the exhibits, meet Olympians and compete in Olympic-style sports for the chance to win 1996 Olympic memorabilia. The Atlanta History Center is located at 130 West Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead.

–Grace Huseth 

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.