The revamped and reinvented 1996 Olympics exhibit is scheduled to open Sept. 18 at the Atlanta History Center.

“Atlanta ’96: Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City” is a 2,600-square-foot exhibit featuring hundreds of artifacts and images about the city’s unlikely successful bid for the 100th Olympics and the mega-event’s impact on the metro area.

Michael Johnson celebrates his record-breaking, gold-medal victory in the 200-meter sprint at the Atlanta Olympics Aug. 1, 1996, in a photo taken by Jeff Najarian. (Georgia Amateur Athletic Foundation Collection, Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center)

Like the original exhibit that opened in 2006, it will include historic sporting moments, medals, torches and the terrorist bombing that marred the event as recently depicted in the controversial movie “Richard Jewell.” But, coming in an era when the Olympics is under renewed scrutiny for expense, displacement of residents and other effects, the new exhibit also will look at how the Games changed life here and will include local protest movements.

“The exhibition examines the long-term impact of the ’96 Games on Atlanta with thoughts about how all of us can have an impact on our community,” said Sheffield Hale, the History Center’s president and CEO, in a press release. “We tried to break out of the typical sports exhibition format that looks exclusively at the events and medals and look at what the Games meant to the city before, during, and after.”

Protesters with Atlanta Neighborhoods United for Fairness demonstrate outside the offices of the Atlanta Olympics organizing committee in April 1996, highlighting concerns about transparency and displacement of Summerhill residents for the main stadium. (Georgia Amateur Athletic Foundation Collection, Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center)

“The exhibition explores the legacy of the 1996 Olympic and Paralympic Games, asking what the Games mean to us today and using the Games as a study to think about how we can change the places in which we live,” says the press release. “The Games mean something different to everyone whose lives were affected, including individuals involved in preparations, people living near venues, activists, competitors and fans.”

“Atlanta ’96” was intended to open in July to coincide with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but this year’s edition was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as was the exhibit. The Sept. 18 date coincides with the 30th anniversary of the International Olympic Committee announcing that Atlanta was awarded the Games.

The History Center is located at 130 West Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead. As of late August, it was operating under pandemic restrictions, including timed ticketing, limited attendance and required mask-wearing. The pandemic conditions mean that some interactive elements of the Olympics exhibit will be suspended for now, according to History Center spokesperson Claire Haley. A substantial online version of the exhibit is planned for a revamped version of the History Center’s website, which likely will go online about two weeks later, Haley said.

For tickets and updated visiting information, see

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John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.