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Remembering the 1996 Games in Atlanta with Olympian Cliff Meidl

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 8:48 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The Olympics will get underway in Tokyo in less than 100 days.

25 years ago, the Olympics were right here in Georgia. We recently caught up with Olympian Cliff Meidl who recalls what a great honor it was for Georgia to host.

For so many of us, it was the first opportunity to see anything Olympics related in person. A quarter of a century has passed since Georgia hosted the Olympics and as the summer games approach again, it’s easy to remember how big this event was here at home.

“The Atlanta Olympics in 1996 was a huge big deal because it was celebrating a huge milestone in the Olympic movement. It was the 100th year for the Olympics,” said Olympian Cliff Meidl, Team USA 1996 & 2000.

It was quite improbable for Atlanta to land the Olympic games. But not only did the city and the state of Georgia accomplish the feat, it was one of the most iconic anniversaries of the world tradition, The Centennial Games.

Cliff Meidl competed in the 1996 Games as a sprint kayaker.

“I was so fortunate being an Olympian and being able to compete on the home turf, and I remember that day so clear walking into the opening ceremony with 100,000 screaming Americans,” said Meidl. “The hair on the back of my neck still stands up, and it was such a memorable experience.”

With Athens, Greece as a finalist, the home of the Olympics, it seemed a natural choice to host the Centennial Games. But against the odds, Atlanta won and iconic moments were born.

“When Muhammed Ali lit that caldron, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life,” said Meidl.

Meidl was an underdog himself, competing in the Olympics after an injury that changed his life forever years prior. Meidl was working on a construction site when he hit live power lines with a jackhammer. He endured numerous surgeries and muscle transplants, overcoming the odds to even eventually becoming an Olympian.

His story to success is as improbable as Atlanta hosting the 1996 Olympic Games, but both are real and they happened 25 years ago.

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