Host City: Atlanta, United States
Date Started: July 26, 1996
Date Finished: August 3, 1996
Participants: 2,073 (1,310 men and 763 women) from 190 countries
Youngest Participant: Rachida Mahamane (14 years, 336 days)
Oldest Participant: Htay Myint (43 years, 22 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): Merlene Ottey-Page (3 medals)
Most Medals (Country): United States (23 medals)
The 1996 Olympics returned to the United States after 12 years, to the southern city of Atlanta. The Europeans were concerned about the heat of the American heat for the athletes, but Atlanta had a strangely cool summer. These were the final Olympics for American Carl Lewis, possibly the greatest ever track & field athlete. He had made the ill-fated US team in 1980, and competed since 1984, winning four gold medals in 1984. Now somewhat past his prime, he was still considered a threat in the long jump, although Mike Powell, who had defeated Lewis in their epic battle at the 1991 World Championships, was favored. But in Atlanta Powell was injured and finished only fifth. Lewis hit the winning mark on his third jump (8.50/27-10¾) to win his fourth consecutive gold medal, matching the feat of Al Oerter in the discus. He also controversially lobbied to be placed on the 4x100 relay team but this was denied, and the Americans did not win that event, losing to Canada, led by 100 metre gold medalist Donovan Bailey.
The big hero of the Atlanta track was another American, Michael Johnson. Johnson became the first ever to win the 200/400 double, setting a remarkable world record of 19.32 in the 200 in the process. He was supposed to run the 4x400 as well, but tweaked his hamstring in the 200 final and did not run. The Americans still won the 1600 relay. Among the women, France’s Marie-José Pérec duplicated Johnson’s feat by winning the 200/400. Russian Svetlana Masterkova was another doubler, winning the 800 and 1,500.