Skip to content

Memorable moments from Centennial Olympic Stadium (Turner Field)

Nov 12, 2013, 2:33 PM EDT

Turner Field Getty Images

All that will be left are memories once Turner Field is demolished.

Of course, Turner Field was originally known as Centennial Olympic Stadium. It was built for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the Centennial Games 100 years after the first modern Olympics were staged.

Here are 10 highlights from 17 years ago, in no particular order:

1. Muhammad Ali lights Olympic cauldron

The night of July 19 provided the lasting image of the Games. Ali, 54 and slowed by Parkinson’s, was the final leg of the torch relay, receiving a handoff from swimmer Janet Evans and lighting the Olympic cauldron.

Later in the Games, Ali would receive a replacement for the 1960 Olympic gold medal he lost.

2. Michael Johnson breaks world record in 200m

The man with the golden shoes doubled up in the 200m and 400m. He broke the Olympic record to win the 400m in 43.49 seconds, but his 200m gold three days later was more impressive.

Johnson, in his trademark upright running style, took a whopping .34 of a second off his previous record set less than two months before the Games. He ran fast enough to be ticketed for speeding in a school zone.

3. Gail Devers dedicates 100m win to bombing victims

Devers, known for her long fingernails, edged Merlene Ottey and Georgia native Gwen Torrance in a photo finish to defend her Olympic title. Devers and Ottey both ran 10.94, while Torrance took bronze in 10.96.

Devers said after that the victims of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing from earlier that day were in her thoughts.

4. Donovan Bailey breaks world record in 100m

The Canadian followed up his world championship with an Olympic title, winning in 9.84 seconds to break Leroy Burrell‘s world record of 9.85 from 1994.

Bailey’s look of astonishment as he crossed the finish line was an indelible memory from the track and field competition at those Games. As was 1992 Olympic champion Linford Christie‘s false-start disqualification.

5. Marie-Jose Perec pulls off 200m-400m double

The French gazelle got far less press than Johnson did for his 200m-400m double. She defended her title in the 200m and then won the 400m in an Olympic record time.

Australian Cathy Freeman took silver in the 400m, four years before she became the star of the 2000 Olympics.

6. Dan O’Brien wins decathlon

O’Brien was a redemption story in track and field, having shockingly missed the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team by no-heighting in the pole vault at the Olympic Trials.

He came back with a fervor for Atlanta, scoring 8,824 points (23 off Daley Thompson‘s Olympic record) to become the first American in 20 years to win the 10-event competition.

7. Jackie Joyner-Kersee ends career with bronze

Joyner-Kersee, at 34, was hampered by a hamstring injury going into her final Olympics. She withdrew after one event in the heptathlon, leaving her in doubt for the long jump.

She gamely qualified for the long jump final. In sixth place with one jump to go, she summoned a 23-footer to snag the bronze, her sixth career Olympic medal.

8. Morceli’s win, El Guerrouj’s fall in 1500m

The 1500m saw a clash between two of the greatest middle-distance runners of all time.

World record holder and three-time world champion Nourredine Morceli won gold, but it was what happened as the bell rung that went down in history.

Hicham El Guerrouj, then 21, tripped and fell after spiking Morceli in the right Achilles tendon going into the final lap. El Guerrouj would get up, finish 12th and last and wait eight years before winning double gold in 2004.

9. Carl Lewis ties gold-medal record

Lewis, at 35, won his fourth straight Olympic title in the long jump for his ninth career Olympic gold medal. That tied the record for most career Olympic gold medals (later to be smashed by Michael Phelps).

A debate raged over whether Lewis would be put on the U.S. 4x100m relay team later in the Games. He was not, and therefore unable to try for a solo record 10th Olympic gold. Not that it would have mattered. Canada, anchored by Bailey, won by .36 of a second over the U.S.

10. Closing Ceremony

The Games concluded with a festive night of performances that included Stevie Wonder performing John Lennon‘s “Imagine.”

International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch did not declare Atlanta the “best Games ever,” as he did in Barcelona and then in Sydney.

“Well done, Atlanta,” he said. “These Centennial Games — the Games of universality and unity — have indeed been most exceptional.”

Veteran sets out on new career after Olympics, tour in Afghanistan

Latest Posts
  1. Boston Marathon preview: Can Meb Keflezighi repeat?

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:17 AM EDT

    Meb Keflezighi AP

    The U.S. appears to have a better shot in the women’s race.

  2. Michael Phelps jokingly challenges Katie Ledecky to race

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:09 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Phelps has raced against a record-breaking woman before.

  3. Debbie Phelps texted Michael Phelps about Rio 2016 years ago (video)

    Apr 17, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT

    Debbie Phelps Getty Images

    “I’m like, Michael, 2016, Rio, 50 free, 100 free, just a relay.”

  4. Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky tie in 400m freestyle

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:06 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    The finals are at 9 p.m. ET on Universal Sports.

  5. Yevgeny Plushenko to return to figure skating competition

    Apr 17, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT

    Evgeni Plushenko AP

    Plushenko wants to compete in a fifth Olympics in 2018.

  6. St. Louis Marathon disqualifies woman who crossed finish line first

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:29 AM EDT

    St. Louis Marathon

    It took organizers about 20 minutes to figure out what happened Sunday.

  7. Michael Phelps back with ‘OK’ victory in Mesa

    Apr 17, 2015, 8:42 AM EDT

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Phelps outdueled Ryan Lochte, but he was slower than last year.

  8. Michael Phelps could be offered World Championships spot by FINA

    Apr 16, 2015, 3:16 PM EDT

    AP AP

    If Phelps is added by FINA, the U.S. might be able to try for podium sweeps at the World Championships.

  9. Michael Phelps fastest in first race since August

    Apr 16, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Phelps and Ryan Lochte appear headed for a showdown Thursday night.

  10. Andrew Wiggins to play for Canada in Olympic qualifying

    Apr 16, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    Andrew Wiggins Getty Images

    Canada has a shot to qualify for its first Olympics since 2000.

  11. Aaron Cook, top-ranked taekwondo fighter, switches from Great Britain to Moldova

    Apr 16, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    “There is no legitimate case for nationality change,” a British official said.

  12. Eugene gets 2021 World Track and Field Championships

    Apr 16, 2015, 10:03 AM EDT

    Prefontaine Classic Getty Images

    See Eugene’s bid video for 2019 that failed to get a taste of what Worlds will be like in the U.S.

  13. Michael Phelps accepts missing World Championships, eyes Rio Olympics

    Apr 15, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Phelps discussed his time away from swimming during his suspension.

  14. Watch Rio Olympic park construction progress video

    Apr 15, 2015, 1:25 PM EDT

    Rio Olympic Park

    The video states that the swimming stadium is 58 percent complete.

  15. Kristin Armstrong ends cycling retirement

    Apr 14, 2015, 4:57 PM EDT

    Kristin Armstrong Getty Images

    Armstrong explained her comeback on social media.

  16. Four storylines to watch at Pro Swim Series at Mesa

    Apr 14, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte Getty Images

    There’s Michael Phelps, but also much more.

  17. Tokyo airport terminal designed like running track

    Apr 14, 2015, 11:48 AM EDT

    Narita Airport track Getty Images

    The blue track is for departures, and the red for arrivals.