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In the summer of 1996, Atlanta Georgia played host to the 23rd modern Olympic games. It was easily the greatest thing to happen to Atlanta in the 90's and there were many benefits brought its way as a result. Of all these benefits, the most significant ones were (1) the legacy of all the facilities built for the event, (2) the revitalization of the downtown area, (3) the exposure it gave to the city and (4) the economic benefits it gained as a result of all this.
In order to host the event Atlanta had to make sure it had all the facilities to be able to provide athletes places both to practice and perform. Although the city had fairly adequate facilities already, there were improvements that needed to be made. By making sure facilities were up to scratch for the athletes, they were also improving facilities for citizens, because ultimately once the Olympics were over, these new and improved facilities would still be there.
The people to benefit from this most were colleges and universities in the downtown Atlanta area. A new gym and swimming pool were made and donated to Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta College received a new football field. As a result of it being used as the Olympic village, Georgia Tech got 7,000 dorm rooms, while Georgia State (who also housed athletes) got 2,000 new rooms.
However they weren't the only ones to benefit greatly. The centerpiece of the games and the location where the opening and closing ceremonies were held was a new $209 million stadium, now called Turner Field and now home to the city's finest baseball team, the Atlanta Braves.
The games also impacted the downtown area of the city as much renewal took place in order for Atlanta to put its best face forward. A more attractive inner city area was the result. Improvements were made to public transportation, retail amenities and public areas such as parks and walkways.
The rejuvenation of the area also meant the rejuvenation of old buildings. The Rialto Theater, once an old crumbling cinema in need of work, was one of the many buildings in the downtown area to be renovated and is now home to plays and various musical productions. An old church was turned into a blues parlour for the Olympics and following the games became a music venue for live bands.
Some of the renewal came after the Olympics, but were done as an indirect result of the games; these included raising a dilapidated housing project and transforming the land into low and middle-income housing.
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Arguably the most impressive legacy of the renewal of downtown Atlanta though was the centennial Olympic park. A 21-acre park it was home to many festival activities during the games.
As a result of all these improvements it was clear for all who visited Atlanta during the games that the city had really come a long way, and confirm that Atlanta was quickly becoming a truly international city.
What really brought Atlanta recognition though, was television and media. It is estimated that over half of the worlds population tune into coverage of the summer Olympic games every 4 years. So without doubt hosting the games immediately placed Atlanta in the world spotlight. In a way it was like one big advertisement for the city, and as a result tourism levels increased while a lot more businesses expressed interest in expanding to Atlanta.
All this brought great economic benefits to the city. According to the official reports for the Atlanta Olympics, the games brought about 2 million visitors and their economic impact from 1991 to 1998 was approximately $5.1 billion, these out-of-state visitors spent an estimated $2.5 billion just in the course of the games. These reports also estimated that the hosting of the games generated $176 million in additional state income, through sales, income, corporate and license taxes.
So overall I think its fair to say that the Olympics proved to be highly beneficial in the growth of the metro Atlanta area. In preparation for the games, the downtown Atlanta cityscape was improved, along with college and sporting facilities; this resulted in new jobs created (approximately 77,000 full and part time jobs), which only served to help build the local economy. The games themselves proved helpful in enhancing Atlanta's international image, which resulted in long-term tourism increases. All in all plenty of benefits, benefits that are still there for all to see, and will be for many years to come.