1996 Summer Olympics closing ceremony
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The Closing Ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics took place on August 4, 1996 at the Centennial Olympic Stadium in Atlanta, United States at approximately 8:00 PM EDT (UTC -4). It was produced by Don Mischer. The official motto of the closing ceremony is "An American Day of Inspiration".
Summon the Heroes
The closing ceremony began after a 26-second countdown in tribute to all the past Summer Olympic Games with the Atlanta Olympic Band, led by John Williams, performing "Summon the Heroes." The R&B group Boyz II Men sang The Star Spangled Banner.
The presentation of the medals in the Men's Marathon followed. Unlike in previous closing ceremonies, the final lap of the race occurred earlier in the morning rather than part of, or immediately before, the gala due to the hot weather conditions of the afternoon. Josia Thugwane of South Africa, Lee Bong-Ju of South Korea, and Erick Wainaina of Kenya won the gold, silver, and bronze medals, respectively.
The spectators and athletes then performed a card trick stunt which revealed a laurel wreath similar to the Quilt of Leaves pattern. Members of the Morehouse College Glee Club performed "Faster, High, Stronger". Cuban singer Gloria Estefan then joined the Glee Club and they performed the song "Reach", one of the official songs of the Atlanta Olympic Games.
Next a plethora of BMX bikers, skaters, and skateboarders performed a daring stunt show; such aforementioned sports were invented in the United States. As the show concluded, the 197 flags of the participating nations were carried into the stadium by athletes of each of their respective countries. The song "The Sacred Truce", written exclusively for the occasion, was performed by the Atlanta Olympic Band and the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. In keeping with tradition with the 1920 Summer Olympics, the flag of the United States was raised beside the Olympic flag that had been flying inside the stadium the past 16 days.
In accordance with the Olympic Charter which governs the Closing Ceremony, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch called on the youth of the world to assemble in Sydney, in four years, for the next Summer Olympics. In his speech, he denounced the Centennial Olympic Park bombing stating that terrorism cannot stop the Olympic spirit. Samaranch asked for a moment of silence to remember the victims of the bombing, as well as the 11 Israeli athletes of the Munich massacre during the 1972 Summer Olympics. He said that those tragedies will never be forgotten and said:
No act of terrorism has ever destroyed the Olympic movement and none ever will. More than ever we are fully committed to building a better, more peaceful world in which forms of terrorism are eradicated.
Although this was first official IOC recognition of the Munich tragedy since 1972, commentators mentioned 1972 quite often, mainly because the next Olympics were taking place in Nagano, Japan and Japan last hosted an Olympics that year, hosting the Winter Games in Sapporo.
Furthermore Samaranch thanked Atlanta with the phrase "Well done, Atlanta", and calling them "most exceptional." He broke with precedent and did not say they had been the best Olympics ever, as he did at every previous Olympic closing ceremony while he was IOC president. However, 4 years later he called the Sydney Olympics the best ever, suggesting that this was an intentional omission 4 years earlier.
This part of the program culminated in the "Antwerp Ceremony" (so called because the original Olympic flag, which was used for transfer of the Games, was first used at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp), which is the transfer of the Olympic Flag, from the mayor of Atlanta, Bill Campbell, to Samaranch, and then to the mayor of Sydney, Frank Sartor. Immediately succeeding the transition, an elaborate presentation of the host city Sydney commenced. It featured many dancers dressed up as aborigines, plants, and animals native to Australia. Four inflated balloons arose to form an imaginary Sydney Opera House while more dancers ran around to form the sea.
Afterwards, Atlanta native mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore, along with the Morehouse College Glee Club and the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra sang the Olympic Hymn while the Olympic flag was lowered. This flag would be raised again in Nagano during the opening ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Olympics; opening ceremony there took place on February 7, 1998.
Power of the Dream
After the lowering of the Olympic flag and the singing of the Olympic Hymn, some 600 children from Atlanta ranging from ages six though twelve sang a rendition of "The Power of the Dream", which was performed by Celine Dion in the opening ceremony. The segment started with ten-year-old Rachel McMullin singing the first stanza. As the song progresses more children join in creating a full choir. The children line up and hold hands to from the Atlantic Olympic emblem while holding up flashlights. The spectators and athletes then sing and hold hands in unison. At the end of the song, the children shout in unison, "Y'all come back now!" a friendly gesture inviting the athletes and citizens of the world to come together at Sydney four years from that time period, though the next Olympics would happen 18 months afterward in Nagano, Japan, Olympic customs and regulations maintain that the Olympic Winter Games and the Games of the Olympiad (Summer) are separate events.
Extinguishing of the Flame
Highlights of the past events were once more replayed on two jumbotrons in the stadium as the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra performs "The Flame". The crowd was silenced, as Georgia native and country singer Trisha Yearwood sang an a cappella version of the same song. Upon conclusion of the song, the flame extinguished slowly.
An array of performers culminated in the finale which was led by Late Show's Paul Shaffer, and conductor Harold Wheeler. As with most closing ceremonies, the athletes were invited onto the field below the stadium to sing and dance along with the music. Among the performers were:
- Gloria Estefan
- Sheila E.
- Faith Hill
- B.B. King
- Wynton Marsalis
- Little Richard
- Pointer Sisters
- Tito Puente
- Buckwheat Zydeco
- Trisha Yearwood
- Stevie Wonder
A fireworks display officially closed the segment, though the performers continued to play music.
- Boyz II Men – American national anthem
- Atlanta Symphony Orchestra – Greek national anthem
- the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra – Australian national anthem
- Jennifer Larmore, Morehouse College Glee Club and the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra – Olympic Hymn
- 2004 Summer Olympics closing ceremony
- 2008 Summer Olympics closing ceremony
- 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony
- Frey, Jennifer (August 5, 1996). "A Curtain Call in Atlanta". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 January 2008.
- Longman, Jere (August 5, 1996). "Atlanta Games, a Celebration for 197 Nations, Close". The New York Times. p. A1.
- Associated Press (October 1, 2000). "Samaranch calls these Olympics 'best ever'". ESPN.com. Retrieved 13 March 2009.
- "Paul Shaffer". Hollywood.com. Archived from the original on 30 January 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2008.
- Official Report Vol. 2 Digital Archive from the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles including detailed synopsis of the closing ceremony.