1996 Summer Paralympics

The 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, United States were held from August 16 to 25. It was the first Paralympics to get mass media sponsorship,[1] and had a budget of USD $81 million.[2]

X Paralympic Games
1996 Paralymic games logo.svg
Host cityAtlanta, Georgia, United States
MottoThe Triumph of the Human Spirit
Athletes3,259 (2,469 men, 790 women)
Events508 in 20 sports
OpeningAugust 16
ClosingAugust 25
Opened by
StadiumCentennial Olympic Stadium
1996 Summer Olympics

It was the first Paralympic Games where International Sports Federation for Persons with an Intellectual Disability athletes were given full medal status.[3]

The Bidding HistoryEdit

In an interview with Atlanta-based Reporters and Newspapers website, the CEO of the Organizing Committee (APOC),the disabilty rights attorney Andrew Flaming thanked and recognized the efforts of Alana Shepherd who founded the world-renowned Shepherd Center which was one of the first hospitals in the world dedicated to the rehabilitation of victims of cervical spine accidents.Since the city was not originally planned to host the Paralympic Games.Even with an initial move, and already with the logo and mascot launched,the city runed the real risk of not hosting the event, either because of disorganization by the Organizing Committee of the 1996 Summer Olympics, or for financial reasons.And seeing the deplorable situation that was going to happen, the Shepard family ran after large corporate sponsorships and also publicity for the event, which would result in greater public interest and draw attention to ticket sales.Fleming even recalled an interview with Shepard that if Atlanta failed to host the Games, they would return to Britain which was already on the radar of the newly formed International Paralympic Committee.Fleming also said that the 1ow-budget organizational model used at 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles was repeated by Atlanta.As the californian capital,was the only bidder,they forget the 1984 Summer Paralympics and at the last the games was shared by New York City and Stoke Mandeville in Great Britain and unlike what had happened with its predecessors Seoul and Barcelona, which at a late stage signed late cooperation agreements for the realization of the Paralympics after the Olympic Games and had in part a joint organization.In 1990,when Atlanta surprisingly won the right to host the 1996 Summer Olympics, a group of people led by him thought of submitting a project to bid for the Paralympics, a project that took a year and a half to complete.Fleming further records that the organizers of the Olympic Games were skeptical about holding the Paralympics and did not want to commit in any way with the event.Thus, it would be difficult to achieve the entirety of the planned budget of US$ 80 million, as the Paralympics had no source of funding, nor was there any sale of media rights. Fleming also recalled that in a previous market survey, only 2% of city locals knew about the Paralympic Games against 4% who knew about the Atlanta Youth Games and the red alert was turned on for the event and upon being aware of this, the Olympic Committee donated a sum of money and decided to help in the organization of the Paralympic Games in some areas.After this turning public,the Shepherd Center co-founder Alana Shepherd’s made a crusade to ensure that the 1996 Summer Paralympics were also held in Atlanta and after the bid was accepted she made an aggressive strategy of going after big corporate sponsors and visibility for the event. According to press reports at the time,The situation was so drastic that in the first few months, the Organizing Committee of the Paralympics did not have the money to rent offices to work and operated from a small basement office at the Center.[4] [5] The IPC publicly accepted the Atlanta proposal only on September 18, 1990.[6]

A different kind of CompetitonEdit

After the application procedures were accepted another race against time began and that was to get corporate and large sponsors. What ended up really happening, as companies like Microsoft, Coca-Cola, CNN and Home Depot committed to buy sponsorship shares.But a unexpected action:The United States Olympic Committee (USOC), which was responsible for everything related to the Olympic Games in the country and notoriously known for its strict policies related to its brand and which turned its nose up at everything that was about the Paralympic Games.The USOC understood that any move by the United States Paralympic Committee (USPC) could inflict these policies and according to newspapers of the time, they even sued justice about the Games mascot, the phoenix Blaze. Fleming also said the deal was the trap worked perfectly and required them to approach only corporate sponsors who had already inked an Olympics sponsorship agreement.And if the company declined, the Paralympics organizers could only request a competitor with the company’s permission. In one example, Fleming said that McDonald’s refused to buy a quota and if someone wanted to buy something from a competitor, they would have to ask the company for authorization to deny any type of sale "would not let them solicit Chick-fil-A, even though Dan Cathy, one of its main executives, had a chair at the organizing committee". Upon learning of this, Alana Shepherd tore up the previously signed contracts and called a press conference and released a list of six companies with names written on a piece of paper and dubbed them the “Sinful Six”. This nickname was born because there were exactly six sponsors who did not sign the Paralympics contract and blocked eventual negotiations with their competitors. In addition to McDonald's were on this list:Anheuser-Busch,Visa,Bausch and Lomb,John Hancock Financial and Sara Lee. “I keep the list in my wallet,” Shepherd told a reporter at the time.In recent interviews,Shepherd declines to say much about this situation and the deal. “I'm taking the high road now… I'm not digging it up,” she said, but added, “They were the losers. We were the winners.”She also atended the 1992 Summer Olympics and the 1992 Summer Paralympics in Barcelona,Spain, and in a stroke of fate happened to have Juan Antonio Samaranch, then president of the International Olympic Committee, sitting next to her and in an informal talking she said. “'You know, it's crazy to have two different committees holding events,'” she recalled.“They didn’t understand it, they were scared of it,” she said of Olympics officials’ attitude toward the Paralympics. “It was something they didn’t understand would help the city become more accessible.”[7] [8]

So, against all odds. APOC got the necessary funds and successfully held the X Summer Paralympic Games which were held from August 15 to 26, 1996.This event was successfully held two weeks after the closing of the Olympic Games and had some competition venues shared.Contrary to predictions, the event made a profit of millions of dollars and that amount was used to create BlazeSports America, a Norcross-based non-profit organization that runs sports programs for children and veterans with disabilities.

Atlanta aftermatchEdit

Flaming and Shepherd believed that Samaranch and others must have heard the message. “After Atlanta, the IOC said it would not accept an Olympic bid unless it also made provisions for the Paralympic Games,” Fleming said. “The IOC leadership essentially said, ‘The Paralympic movement is not going way, especially after Atlanta…'and this was already happening, a few months after the closing of the Atlanta Games, the International Olympic Committee announced that it had changed the rules of the application process and starting from the 2004 Summer Olympics would not accept more than no city would file a bid without disclosing its plans for the Paralympic Games.Following this difficult process,when is bidding for the 2000 Summer Paralympic Games in 1993,the eventual winner the australian city of Sydney, promised that they would give the same treatment to athletes who would be participating in both events and that all Games services would be unified.This also encompassed financing,security,logistics, marketing and ticket sales.Even with two separate organizing committees, all functional areas were merged and unified and delivery the best Paralympic Games of all times until that date.[9]

Some time later, it was the turn of the Organizing Committees for the 2002 Winter Olympics to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah and for the 2004 Summer Olympics to be held in Athens, Greece announced that they would manage the two events as one.[10] [11]

Five years later,in 2001, after a change at the Olympic Charter, the International Paralympic Committee became an effective collaborator of the International Olympic Committee and its president became a compulsory member of the IOC.With that, a cooperation agreement was signed informally called "One city, two events" and from then on, the same city and the same Organizing Committee would be responsible for the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games of the same year and started at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing,China, as the Organizing Committee of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, faced the same problem as Atlanta and the Paralympics had to be outsourced.[12][13]

Incidents during the GamesEdit

To worsen relations between the two organizing committees.and made public the displeasure of the first delegations that registered with the Paralympic Village about the state of conservation of its rooms, the availability of food and especially the conditions of logistics between the village and the competition places because of the distances and accessibility of the same.These were not the first problems that were reported in the so-called "transition period" that lasted from August 5th to 16th. Several media that were covering the games accused the Olympic Games Organizing Committee of negligence and that the situation would be the result of numerous contractual failures between the two parties.This agreement also included the infrastructure issues of those sites that were shared and their cleaning and conservation, until APOC could take over their operation.When settling in their rooms, the athletes and participating delegations also noticed that several electronic devices and sockets were summarily ripped off and there was furniture missing, which turned the residential part of the village into a mess.The amount of criticism was so great that ACOG issued a public denial about the situation, claiming that the athletes broke some rules and that they installed two days ahead of schedule and that the adaptation works ended up being delayed because of their specificities.Accessibility and competition venues were also an issue, as competitions were held in 17 venues scattered throughout Metro Atlanta, with only 3 being close to the Village and another 6 that had not been used in the Olympic Games inside Universities and Colleges.Another situation that caused many embarrassments was the way APOC dealt with athletes with intellectual disabilities.As this was the first time in the history of the Summer Paralympics that athletes with this type of disability were included in the sports programme.As the decision to include them was made late, there was no mention of them in official publicity and promotion materials for the Games.Not even they were officially mentioned during the opening ceremony nor during their competitions held in the early days.Even with official complaints, made insistently and repeatedly made by Bernard Athos, then president of the International Association of Sports for People with Intellectual Disabilities, were heard by APOC.Their complaints were going unnoticed until they reached the ears of journalists covering the Games and were made public.It was only after the story became public that the APOC came forward and claimed that the situation had been unintentionally caused.[14]

Symbol and mascot of the gamesEdit

1996 Paralympic Mascot, Blaze the Phoenix

The mascot for the Paralympic Summer Games in Atlanta 1996 was Blaze. Blaze was created by Trevor Stone Irvin of Irvin Productions in Atlanta.

Blaze is a phoenix, a mythical bird that rises from ashes to experience a renewed life. The phoenix appears in Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Arabian, Chinese, Russian and Native American folklore and in all instances symbolizes strength, vision, inspiration and survival. The phoenix was an ideal mascot for the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and later for BlazeSports America, a nonprofit organization that is the direct legacy of the Games. The phoenix has long been the symbol of Atlanta's rebirth after its devastation in the American Civil War. But most importantly, it is the personification of the will, perseverance and determination of youth and adults with physical disability to achieve full and productive lives. Blaze, with his bright colors, height and broad wing span, reflects the traits, identified in a focus group of athletes with disability, as those they believed best represented the drive to succeed of persons with physical disability who pursue sports as recreation and as a competitive endeavor. Today, Blaze is the most recognizable symbol of disability sport in America.


Eila Nilsson of Sweden celebrating her 50 m freestyle B1 gold with Janice Burton of Great Britain and Tracey Cross of Australia.

The games consisted of 508 events spread over twenty sports, including three demonstration sports.[1]

A group of Australian supporters at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games


In total 11 venues were used at the 1996 Summer Olympics and five new venues were used at the Games in Atlanta.[15]

Olympic RingEdit

Metro AtlantaEdit

Another VenuesEdit


In the following calendar for the 1996 Summer Paralympics, each blue box represents an event competition. The yellow boxes represent days during which medal-awarding finals for a sport are held. The number in each yellow box represents the number of finals that are contested on that day.[16]

 ●  Opening ceremony      Event competitions      Event finals  ●  Closing ceremony
August  Tue
Ceremonies OC CC N/A
Archery 5 3 8
Athletics 16 25 28 26 24 18 25 29 20 211
Boccia 5 5
Cycling Track 3 6 2 11
Cycling Road 4 4 4 12
Equestrian 4 5 9
Football 7-a-side 1 1
Goalball 2 2
Judo 2 2 3 7
Lawn Bowls 4 4 8
Powerlifting 2 2 2 2 2 10
Sailing 1 1
Shooting 2 3 2 2 1 2 2 15
Sitting volleyball 1 1
Standing volleyball 1 1
Swimming 18 20 15 11 19 19 15 28 21 168
Wheelchair basketball 1 1 2
Wheelchair rugby 1 1
Wheelchair tennis 1 3 4
Total 0 2 39 54 47 50 56 61 54 66 45 517

Medal countEdit

A total of 1574 medals were awarded during the Atlanta games: 517 gold, 516 silver, and 541 bronze. The host country, the United States, topped the medal count with more gold medals, more bronze medals, and more medals overall than any other nation. Germany took the most silver medals, with 58.[17]

In the table below, the ranking sorts by the number of gold medals earned by the top ten nations (in this context a nation is an entity represented by a National Paralympic Committee). The number of silver medals is taken into consideration next and then the number of bronze medals.

  Host country (United States)

1  United States (USA)*464665157
2  Australia (AUS)423727106
3  Germany (GER)405851149
4  Great Britain (GBR)394241122
5  Spain (ESP)393136106
6  France (FRA)35293195
7  Canada (CAN)24212469
8  Netherlands (NED)17111745
9  China (CHN)16131039
10  Japan (JPN)14101337
Totals (10 nations)312298315925

Participating delegationsEdit

A total of 100 nations were represented at the 1996 Games, and the combined total of athletes was about 3,260.

Participating National Paralympic Committees


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games". International Paralympic Committee. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  2. ^ Ian Brittain (2009). The Paralympic Games Explained. Taylor & Francis. p. 83. ISBN 0-415-47658-5.
  3. ^ Robert Daniel Steadward; Elizabeth Jane Watkinson; Garry David Wheeler (2003). Adapted physical activity. University of Alberta. p. 577. ISBN 0-88864-375-6.
  4. ^ "How Buckhead's Shepherd Center saved the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games". Reporter Newspapers. August 3, 2019. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  5. ^ "The 10th Paralympic Games and Their Place in Disability History". Atlanta History Center. March 4, 2021. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  6. ^ "Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Summer Games". Stoke Mandeville Paralympic Herritage. 2019. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  7. ^ "How Buckhead's Shepherd Center saved the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games". Reporter Newspapers. August 3, 2019. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  8. ^ "The 10th Paralympic Games and Their Place in Disability History". Atlanta History Center. March 4, 2021. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  9. ^ "Sydney 2000 Paralympic Summer Games". Stock Mandeville Paralympic Heritage. April 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  10. ^ "Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Paralympics". Stock Mandeville Paralympic Heritage. May 2022. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  11. ^ "Athens 2004 Summer Paralympics". Stock Mandeville Paralympic Heritage. May 2022. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  12. ^ "Beijing 2008 Summer Paralympics". Stock Mandeville Paralympic Heritage. May 2022. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  13. ^ "10 Olympic Games That Nearly Bankrupted Their Host Countries". January 19, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  14. ^ "Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Summer Games". Stoke Mandeville Paralympic Herritage. 2019. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  15. ^ "Tickets". Atlanta Paralympics Organizing Committee. 1996. Archived from the original on February 6, 1997. Retrieved October 16, 2016.
  16. ^ "Atlanta 1996 Summer Paralympics Results". Atlanta 1996 Summer Paralympics Official Website. Archived from the original on December 17, 1996. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  17. ^ "Medal Standings – Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games". International Paralympic Committee. 2008. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011.

External linksEdit

Preceded by Summer Paralympics

X Paralympic Summer Games (1996)
Succeeded by