Savannah Archives: 25 years ago, the Olympics came to Savannah

On this day in history 25 ago, July 20, 1996, Savannah held her very own opening ceremony for the XXVI Olympiad, the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games that were based in Atlanta. This was the first time that a city outside of the host city held their own opening ceremony.

Artist Ivan Bailey was commissioned to create Savannah’s unique Olympic Cauldron, which featured five fluted columns representing the Games’ classical Greek origins and the five Olympic rings. He topped the columns with sails to represent the Olympic Yachting events for which Savannah was the host community.

The Cauldron can still be visited today at the east end of River Street in Morrell Park. Savannah was selected as the site of the Olympic Yachting events because of its proximity to water and its rich Southern history and beauty.

Between July 21 and 29, 1996, Olympic Yachting events were held off the coast of Georgia near Wilmington Island, in Wassaw Sound. Ten different sailing classes (also called disciplines), including men’s, women’s, and mixed events, raced 10 or more races each over the eight-day span of the games. There were 461 athletes representing 78 countries from six continents who competed in the 1996 Olympic Yachting events and an average of 1,000 spectators a day turned out to watch the competition.

For more sights and sounds of the Centennial Olympic Games in Savannah, visit the Municipal Archives' online exhibit at

Riverfront Scavenger Hunt now online

Looking for a challenging, fun, and free activity for the whole family this summer? Check out the Municipal Archives' new Riverfront Scavenger Hunt, which will take you from Emmet Park on Bay Street, down to Morrell Park, and along the east end of River Street. This hunt will have you looking for clues in places you may have never noticed before while learning about Savannah's history. Challenge your friends to see who can solve the clues and get to the end first. This activity is self-guided, suitable for all ages, and leader notes are available so it can be adapted to large field trip groups. Available online at

City of Savannah Municipal Archives,, Discover the Archives:

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah Archives: 25 years ago, the Olympics came to Savannah

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