Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee
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On Exhibit: Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games Torch

The torch for the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games included 22 aluminum reeds, one for each of the modern Olympic Games held to that point. The center of the torch, where it is held, is Georgia pecan wood, with wider gold bands at the top and bottom of the torch.

The names of each Olympic host city are etched in the gold band at the bottom of the torch.

As is custom, the torch was first lit in Greece and then flown to the United States, where the first torch carrier upon arrival was 1960 decathlon gold medalist Rafer Johnson. It was Johnson who was the final torch bearer at the previous Olympics in the United States, the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.

The torch then traveled cross-country on a more than 15,000-mile journey, with 12,467 torch bearers. There was even a trip into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.

The penultimate torch bearer was swimmer Janet Evans, a four-time gold medalist. She had the responsibility of carrying the flame to 1960 boxing gold medalist Muhammad Ali, who lit the Olympic Flame in what became an all-time Olympic moment.

“To stand there in front of the world and inspire even more young people like myself, to be and do and accomplish anything we want to do, it was an epiphany for me,” said Evans, noting that while the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games were her third Olympics, this was the first time she attended the Opening Ceremonies because swimmers usually remained home to rest for competition the day after the Ceremonies. “It was a defining moment in my Olympic career.”

The Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games featured athletes from 197 nations competing in 271 medal events. The United States led the medal count with 101 medals: 44 gold, 32 silver and 25 bronze.

The Atlanta Paralympics featured athletes from 104 nations competing in 508 medal events. The United States claimed 159 medals: 47 gold, 46 silver and 66 bronze.

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