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26th Olympic Games: Atlanta 1996
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Date: 19 July - 04 August 1996
NOCs (Nations): 197
Athletes: 10,318 (3,512 women, 6,806 men)
Sports: 26
Events: 271
Volunteers: 47,466
Media: 15,108 (5,695 written press, 9,413 broadcasters)

The 1996 Games were given a dramatic start when the cauldron was lit by Mohammad Ali. A terrorist bomb killed one person and injured a further 110 people, but the Atlanta Games are best remembered for their sporting achievements. A record-setting 79 nations won medals and 53 won gold. Carl Lewis became only the fourth person to win the same individual event four times and the fourth person to earn a ninth gold medal. Naim Suleymanoglu became the first weightlifter to win a third gold medal. Michael Johnson smashed the 200m world record to complete a 200m and 400m double.

The Centennial Olympic Games held in Atlanta, the United States, in August 1996 saw a large gathering of athletes from 197 countries and regions around the world. After 16 days of competitions, China collected 16 golds, 22 silvers and 12 bronzes, ranking fourth both in gold medals tally and in the total number of medals won.

China missed the gold in some of the events in which it excelled. This was compensated by victories in other eventss through the unremitting struggles of its contestants. But success or failure, the Chinese participants' untiring efforts and go-getting spirit did win the hearts of spectators on the scene and TV viewers the world over.

Woman judoist Sun Fuming made a good start for the Chinese sports delegation in Atlanta by taking the gold medal in the +72kg heavyweight judo on the first day of competition. Le Jingyi, a swimmer from Shanghai, won the women's 100m freestyle in 54.50secs, a new Games record.

Of the 15 new world records set in weightlifting, nearly two-thirds of the total of the whole Games, four were set by the Chinese lifters. In the men's 59kg category, China's Tang Lingsheng was almost a dark horse. As a fifth-place finisher in the two-lift total at the World Championships held in Guangzhou in 1995, Tang had only been expected to maintain the fifth place and, should everything go fine with him, earn a bronze medal in Atlanta. However, he not only emerged the winner but also toppled the world mark of 305kg set by Bulgaria's N. Peshalov in 1993. In the men's 70kg class, China's Zhan Xugang led silver medallist Kim Myong-Nam of Democratic People's Republic of Korea by 12.5kg and bronze-medallist A. Feri of Hungary by 17.5kg, in addition to setting three world records to make his gold medal all the more valuable.

18-year-old diver Fu Mingxia proved his superiority in both the women's 3m springboard and 10m platform diving and rose as a new "queen of diving" since the retirement of Gao Min after the Barcelona Olympics. Her teammate Xiong Ni, a silver medallist at the '88 Seoul Olympics, clinched the men's 3m springboard title after training hard for eight long years.

In men's gymnastics, 23-year-old Li Xiaoshuang managed to rid himself of the enormous pressure and beat a strong field to win the first all-around gold medal for China, winning the respect of both his teammates and foreign counterparts. In badminton, China's Ge Fei/Gu Jun placed first in the women's doubles to win the first and only Olympic gold for China in badminton, with a background of 12 years' close cooperation.

In table tennis, Deng Yaping and Qiao Hong, an unrivalled duo for some six years in the women's events, repeated their high performance at the Barcelona Olympics four years before: Deng won the singles, and playing together the two of them won the doubles, once again displaying their overwhelming strength in the sport.

Wang Junxia, a fleet-footed distance runner who was awarded the coveted Jesse Owens Trophy in 1993, won the gold in the women's 5000m and the silver in the 10000m in which she held the world record. As the only athlete bold enough to risk competing in both the 5000m and 10000m, which meant a total of 20,000 metres in three days including the heats, she won the hearts of all the spectators on the scene and TV viewers around the world with her superb performances and newly-acquired smile.

Also in Atlanta, 26-year-old Lee Lai-Shan won the women's boardsailing to become the first gold medallist in the 44-year Olympic history of Hong Kong. When news of her victory reached Hong Kong, the people there were wild with joy. Upon her return home she was given a tremendous welcome, with thousands of people lining the streets to greet their heroine and celebrating "this moment of historical significance".

(COC Website   July 8, 2004)

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