The Olympics in Atlanta: Beneficial or Harmful to Atlanta?


The Olympic Games are a combination of sporting events that travel the world and host the competition of the best athletes in the world. Every two years, the Olympic Games alternate between summer and winter events. The Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 was the second summer Olympics ever held in the United States. It was a time of exhilaration and hopefulness for the American people as they would finally be able to host one of the summer Olympics again after waiting almost one hundred years since 1904. Americans were eager to host “ the most watched event around the globe” (Simmons). Many people believe that the host of the Olympics should not rotate between countries every two years. Low-income neighborhoods struggle and many people view that it drains a city economically, however, many hosting cities like Atlanta succeed. The Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 were very beneficial to Atlanta because they positively impacted the community. 

Atlanta wanted to prove that by hosting the Olympics in 1996 that it would not only follow the goals of the Olympics but also make Atlanta more well known. The games started on July 19, 1996, with approximately 3.5 billion people watching the opening ceremonies (Newman, “Olympic Games”). The opening ceremonies consisted of vivid and dazzling lights: Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic circles, pictures of Greek Athletes, and a display of Chevy monster trucks racing around the Olympic track. By hosting the Olympics, Atlanta tried to achieve the Olympic committee’s overall goal of contributing to “a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play” (“Promote Olympism in Society”). The goal during the 1996 games was very similar as they wanted to promote the city of Atlanta by showcasing all of the sensational games and events taking place around the city. 

Atlanta accomplished the goal of increasing the city’s population dramatically. Hosting the games made Atlanta a well-known city around the world. People around the world saw all of the new constructions being developed to host the games and likewise, the population increase led to many excellent events to come following the Olympics. Currently, the airport in Atlanta has now become one of the world’s largest airports in the world and is accountable for thousands of people entering and exiting Atlanta each day. Atlanta has also been able to host many large sporting events because of the efforts that occurred prior to the Olympics. Atlanta created some of the most prominent stadiums and entertainment grounds for the American people like Centennial Olympic Park provides a fountain for kids to play in and enjoy during the summer. Concerts in the summer and entertainment allow the park to relive the history of the games.  Sports stadiums constructed for the Olympics continue to also bring in profit for Atlanta. By following the goals of the Olympics the city Atlanta was able to prosper near the site of the games.

Many people think that the host city benefits immensely from the Olympics, however, in many cases, the cities are not successful. In Atlanta, the Olympic Games created many jobs near the areas close to the site of the Olympics. This distracted jobs from the rest of the city and many businesses failed to succeed because of the lack of employers. The jobs that were being created for the Olympics were short-term jobs that did not lead to a firm future. After the games, these jobs would disappear and the unemployment rate would rise. Georgia, as a state, had an increase in jobs by 0.002% but that was only due to the enormous increase in jobs near the Olympics where Atlanta had an increase in jobs by 17% (Hotchkiss et al.). These numbers would suggest that the entire state was succeeding from the Olympics but many people rather were struggling. Atlanta was prospering near the Olympics, but other low-income areas were failing partially due to the Olympics. 

Residents in low-income neighborhoods were most negatively affected by the Olympics. The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) was the main committee in charge of preparing for the games, which had a bad reputation with the low-income black communities. In instances before, the ACOG had forced low-income residents out of their neighborhoods to create room for the new developments of advanced suburban neighborhoods. People in these low-income areas reluctantly moved from their homes and neighborhoods to create room for the Olympics. In order for the low-income residents to move, houses needed built, but the plan did not get developed leaving many people disappointed. Many people saw low income-African American neighborhoods being revitalized but not in the same regards as the white neighborhoods and saw that the Olympic committees were working so that “well-to-do white neighborhoods could influence decisions in preparation for the Olympics while poorer black neighborhoods would gain little and possibly lose much as the city prepared for the games” (Newman, “Neighborhood Impacts” 155). People in these low-come black neighborhoods felt as if they had no say in what was occurring in the places that they live. Big companies near the hosting site of the Olympics were helping neighborhoods improve the condition of the houses and scenery, which was the area predominantly resided by white families. 

Lastly, one major challenge that occurred with the Olympics was the bombing by Eric Rudolph. The bombing of the Olympics occurred on July 27, 1996, and took place in Centennial Olympic Park. He killed one person during the bombing and injured about one hundred more. Rudolph avoided the FBI for five and a half years and was arrested on May 31, 2003 scavenging through a local grocery store trash for food. Eric Rudolph was anti-government and said that was his primary motive for the bombing. He also had bombed an abortion clinic with his motive being that he was anti-abortion. 

However, the Olympics had a more positive impact on Atlanta than they had a negative impact. The population in Atlanta skyrocketed. The population increase became evident when the metro area population of Atlanta was two million in 1970, quickly grew to three million in 1996, and now is now close to six million and still increasing (Rolinson). With the increase in people comes profit for the city. The city of Atlanta came out of the Olympic games in no debt and roughly five million dollar profit from the games and an extra 1.8 billion dollars profit for the ten years following the Olympics in hotel and tourism increases ("The Legacy of Atlanta", par. 6 ) The increase in money allowed Atlanta to fully pay back all expenditures for hosting the Olympics, with money left over. The rest of the money went to increasing the environment of Atlanta. 

The landscape and general makeup of the city saw huge improvements that made the city feel more welcoming. Atlanta focused on creating a more well-developed area to host the Olympics. They started off with landscaping. The city spent 500 million dollars that dramatically changed the landscape of Atlanta. The new landscape included many new plants, bushes, and shrubs and also included the planting of 2,000 new trees ("The Legacy of Atlanta", par. 4 ). Likewise, downtown Atlanta received changes that made the city look pleasant. The funds from the Olympics, allowed Atlanta to change the old apartments and turn them into businesses and new apartments. More people started to live in downtown Atlanta and started to give the city the feeling of one of the bigger cities in the United States. The large increase in residents downtown led to many large businesses forming. Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines already had headquarters in Atlanta and after the Olympics, many large businesses started to inquire about moving their companies headquarters to Atlanta. Currently, “Atlanta ranks ahead of Boston as home to Fortune 500 companies” (Nickisch). Sixteen Fortune 500 and fourteen Fortune 1000 companies currently have headquarters in Atlanta and bring in enormous profits for the city. This all stems from the Olympics and the push for more large businesses in Atlanta. 

The stadiums built for the Olympics benefited the city tremendously and continue to positively impact Atlanta. Three stadiums, Turner Field, Philips Arena, and Georgia Dome along with Centennial Olympic Park allow for Atlanta to bring in tourism for events that occur in stadiums constructed for the Olympics. These three stadiums hosted the All-Star Games for baseball, basketball, and hockey, World Series, Super Bowls, and the Final Four ("The Legacy of Atlanta", par. 6 ).  However, Turner Field is no longer in use by the Atlanta Braves as they have moved on to a more updated stadium. 

In conclusion, the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 were beneficial to the city. By hosting the Olympics, Atlanta was able to comply with the goal of the Olympic committee and accomplished the goal of making Atlanta more well-known around the world. Atlanta showcased what not to do in future Olympics to help the entire city succeed. Atlanta’s profit from the Olympics was crucial because it allowed Atlanta to transform their city into one of the largest in the United States. The Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 were very beneficial to Atlanta because they positively impacted the community.

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