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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 park by an American right-wing extremist that killed two and injured more than a hundred.

The International Olympic Committee was swift to declare that the Games would go on.

The bomber was identified, and the FBI offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest -- finally getting its man five years later.

Two days before 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, with many believing Athens should have hosted that year's edition, and during the event itself, there was virulent criticism of rampant consumerism and overt partisanship from the U.S. public.

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch dealt the '96 Games their 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 provide some excellent sporting spectacles.

America's Michael Johnson managed a groundbreaking double gold in the 200 and 400 sprints, with the added spice of setting a world record time of 19.32 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, his fourth consecutive gold in the event.

Canadian sprinters forgiven

Canada's Donovan Bailey went some way toward erasing the memory of Ben Johnson's shame by winning the 100 meters and smashing the world record with a time of 9.84.

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

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

America's female gymnasts also must be remembered in the domestic role of honor 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 soccer gold, and Cuban boxer Felix Savon won the heavyweight gold for the second consecutive time.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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