Commemorating an Olympic Anniversary

Cami with Michael Rose at “Atlanta ’96,” a new exhibition at the Atlanta History Center 

People around the world have been tuning in to watch the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. But this year also marks the 25th anniversary of the 1996 Summer Olympics, which were held in Atlanta, Georgia. The Atlanta History Center commemorated the milestone with a special event.

Visitors were able to tour a new exhibition called “Atlanta ’96: Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City.” The exhibition explores the legacy and spirit of the Games. It also illustrates how Atlanta changed after hosting the Summer Olympics, and how the Olympics changed after being held in Atlanta. 

At the event, I spoke with Michael Rose, the center’s chief mission officer. “What we want everyone to get from this exhibit,” he said, “especially kids, is that they can make an impact and improve their community and their city, as well.” 

The 1996 Olympic Games, Rose added, would change the city forever. “They allowed Atlanta to become the next big international city.”


Cami talks with Ross Gandy, who participated in the Opening Ceremony at the Summer Olympics in 1996. 


Atlanta could not have hosted the Games without the assistance of thousands of volunteers. They helped with everything from security and medical care to staging events. At the Opening Ceremony, kids formed the five Olympic Rings and the number 100, to represent the centennial of the modern Olympic Games, which were first held in 1896.

While touring the exhibition, I spoke with some of the people who had volunteered in 1996. “I was a part of the Opening Ceremony,” said Ross Gandy, who helped form one of the Rings. “I had many practices to learn the moves for the performance. It was an amazing experience being in the stadium surrounded by more than 85,000 fans and, ultimately, Muhammed Ali coming and lighting the torch.”

Helen Diehl helped with security and medical needs. Her husband, Tom Diehl, also helped with security. “The electricity in the air was just unbelievable,” Tom recalled. Helen agreed, adding, “You could feel the excitement inside of everyone.”


Helen and Tom Diehl recall their experiences volunteering at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. 

Photos courtesy of the author