Atlanta Olympics 1996 – Watching Michael Johnson Win Gold and Set a World Record

Watching the Rio Summer Olympics last week and this week brings back memories of attending the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996. Tonight is the final of the Men’s 200M in Track and Field, and I remember watching the 200M final in 1996 when Michael Johnson broke his own world record and won the gold medal.

Track and field are my favorite events at the Olympics, and after entering the Olympic ticket lottery, I was thrilled that I received several tickets to the track and field events. I was even more excited that we were there to witness the 200M final.

It was a thrill to be in the packed stadium, watching the buildup to the start of the race.

Back in 1996, I only had a simple film camera (no digital cameras or smart phones back then), so unfortunately, the photos from that historic night are not high quality.

MJ JP-me-Ira

Sitting in the stadium with my friends Jennifer and Ira for the track and field events.

I found this video on YouTube of the race shared by user renjithkadappoor. The commentator mentions Johnson’s top competitors including Ato Boldin of Trinidad and Tobago (now reporting at the Olympics for NBC) who won the bronze medal.

 

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My photo of the scoreboard after Johnson won

Even though my photos are blurry, I still treasure them and the memories of the night that they trigger.

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Johnson in triumph after the race. He was easy to spot on the track because of his gold shoes.

MJ scoreboard

My photo of the scoreboard after the race showing all the finishers and Johnson’s world record time of 19.32 seconds.

I still have this Sports Illustrated issue from August 12, 1996, showing Johnson on the cover.

Michael Johnson SI cover

Tonight NBC will air the 200M final from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Watching the race on TV, I will remember the historic race that I witnessed in 1996.

 

Team USA’s Road to Rio Tour

The Team USA Road to Rio tour visited Venice Beach, California, last weekend, and I stopped by for a quick visit. The tour has been traveling around the United States since last summer, visiting nine cities with the goal of, “giving fans access to Team USA athletes and experiences earlier than ever before, and heightening awareness and excitement for the Rio Games in the buildup to 2016,” as the press release announcing the tour stated.

As I walked along Venice Beach towards the Road to Rio tour, I saw these national flags in the sand. They reminded me of all the countries coming together to compete at the Olympic games.

Team USA flags

Team USA had a large area along the beach with a zip-line, concert stage, and several booths and trailers with Olympic memorabilia on display. Some local celebrities and Olympic athletes made appearances each day, and there were musical acts to entertain the crowd.

Team USA main stage

Liberty Mutual sponsored the tour and insures all the medals that Team USA athletes win at the Olympic games. They had a photo stand set to pose with an Olympic medal.

Team USA Liberty Mutual

Here I am posing with my “Olympic medal.”

Team USA medal Kiera 2

Another photo station had us pose as if we were on the diving platform.

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In one of the trailers, there was an area to experience different Olympic sports through virtual reality. Since I posed as if I was diving, I tried the diving demo narrated by Olympic gold medal diver David Boudia. I always have had an appreciation for the Olympic divers, but this really provided a sense of how high those diving platforms are! In the demo, David explained how divers start on the lower platforms, train there and then when they are completely comfortable they move up to a higher platform. By the time they reach the 10 meter platform, they are comfortable with the height.

Team USA VR

Virtual reality demos at the Road to Rio tour.

On the other side of the VR station was another photo opportunity – to pose for a high jump. I laid back on this green prop and the back drop was filled in to look like I was clearing the high jump bar.

Team USA high jump

Green screen and green cushion for the high jump photos.

Team USA Kiera pole vault

Here I am completing a high jump!

Another trailer featured displays on American Olympic athletes and Olympic memorabilia.

Team USA trailer

Examples of team uniforms were on display.

 

Another photo station posed us with the back drop of the beach in Rio. I held the torch used for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics torch relay. It weighs more than I thought! I remember seeing the torch relay run through New York City on the way to Atlanta in 1996.

Team USA torch

Here you can see how my teal shirt blended into the background because of the ‘green screen.’

I loved this display of the gold, silver and bronze medals for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. They are beautiful.

Team USA Atlanta medals

The last station I visited was the Los Angeles 2024 booth. Los Angeles is an official bid city for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. As we stood in front of a rendering of what the Santa Monica beach and pier would look like with the beach volleyball courts and stands set for the games, we held the symbol for Los Angeles’ bid theme, Follow the Sun.

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It was a fun event, and I want to thank the wonderful Team USA ambassadors that worked at all of the stations. Every single one of them was welcoming, enthusiastic and having fun. Their attitudes were infectious. Thank you!

The Summer Olympic games begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 5th. I will be at home watching as much coverage as possible and cheering for Team USA!

You can support Team USA by making a donation to Team USA and/or purchasing Team USA gear in the Team USA shop.

 

Celebrating Olympic Day in Pasadena

Today, June 23rd, is Olympic Day, a day celebrating the Olympics around the world. In honor of this day, local NPR station KPCC hosted a discussion panel with several US Olympians at the Crawford Family Forum in Pasadena, California on Tuesday evening.

At the event, several Olympic pin collectors displayed the hundreds of pins they have collected by trading at several Olympic games. It was interesting to hear their stories of how they started collecting pins and their memories of attending several Olympic games. I have some pins from when I attended the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, but my collection pales in comparison to the pins they acquired through trading.

Olympic Day pins

The moderator for the panel discussion was Olympic Hall of Fame swimmer John Naber (1976 Swimming, 4 gold and 1 silver medals). Before the discussion, John introduced Gordy Crawford and he spoke about the US Olympic and Paralympic Foundation and encouraged everyone to support Team USA – even a small gift makes a difference in helping our athletes train for the Olympics!

John asked questions of each of the Olympians about their experiences at the games, what they remember and the lessons they learned. With a diversity of sports represented, it was interesting to hear their perspectives about what we can expect from the US Olympic Team at the Rio Games this summer.

The panelists included:

  • Shirley Babashoff (1976, swimmer, eight Olympic medals)
  • Dwight Stones (1972, ’76, ’84, high jumper, two Olympic medals)
  • Connie Paraskevin (1980, ’84, ’88, ’92, ’96, speed skater and cyclist, one Olympic medal, four world titles)
  • Paula Weiskopf (1984, ’88, 2012, volleyball player and coach, two Olympic medals)

Olympic Day panel

The Olympic panel with

The Olympic panel. Front row L-R: Shirley Babashoff, Connie Paraskevin, and Paula Weishoff; Back row L-R: Dwight Stones, Gordy Crawford (Chair of the US Olympic and Paralympic Foundation) and John Naber.

After the discussion, all the athletes mingled with audience members, and I spoke with Dwight Jones about his broadcast career – he will be reporting for ESPN International in Rio, calling play by play for track and field, and Shirley Babashoff about her soon to be released book, Making Waves, and the documentary about the 1976 games and the East German swimmers that she knew were doping at the time (but no one else seemed to acknowledge this) – The Last Gold. Shirley brought along her 1976 gold medal in the 4×100 relay and let all of us hold it. What an honor!

Olympian Shirley Babashoff poses with me.

What an honor to meet Shirley Babashoff.

 

An Olympic gold medal!

An Olympic gold medal!

It was an honor to meet these Olympians, and I thank them all for representing our country at the Olympic Games. I am excited for the games in Rio this summer.

Happy Olympic Day!