Atlanta 1996

Wladimir Klitschko recalls seeing Muhammad Ali at Atlanta Olympics

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Wladimir Klitschko, the former world heavyweight boxing champion who retired Thursday, smiled when asked to recall his 1996 Atlanta Games experience, saying “the Olympics have changed my life.”

Before going 64-5 as a pro, Klitschko won super heavyweight gold at age 20 at Ukraine’s first Summer Olympics as an independent country. Friday is the 21st anniversary of the gold-medal bout.

“I have great memories,” Klitschko said in an interview two years ago at Madison Square Garden. “Meeting Muhammad Ali. … He was visiting the [athletes’] village, gathering a lot of people. I was one of them. It was exciting to see him in person. I didn’t get a chance to shake his hand.”

Klitschko said that was the first time he was close to Ali. The two Olympic champions met several more times before Ali died June 3, 2016.

Klitschko’s second memory of the Atlanta Games was of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing on July 27.

“One of the memories is the bombing of the disco, where my friends went to, and I was there before,” Klitschko said. “But I left, because I have to be in the schedule and sleep. When I heard the next morning, which was right on the other side of the campus where we were staying, it was really sad. Thankfully, nobody from my team got injured, but they were there.”

Klitschko auctioned his gold medal in 2012 for $1 million, all of which went to his and older brother Vitali Klitschko‘s charity. In a gracious gesture, the buyer reportedly immediately returned the medal back to the Klitschko family after the sale.

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VIDEO: Ali lights 1996 Olympic cauldron

Another 1996 Olympic venue to bite the dust

Stone Mountain Tennis Center
AP
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The Atlanta Olympic tennis venue, where Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport famously won gold, will be demolished, possibly as soon as next month.

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners awarded a $1 million contract Tuesday to tear down the Stone Mountain Tennis Center, according to Atlanta media.

“Moving for demolition is not something we take very lightly at all,” Gwinnet County Commissioner John Heard said, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post. “The Olympic tennis center that was built for the ‘96 Olympics has been in place for 25 years now and has been running down the entire time. All of the copper has been stolen out of it. It is a health and safety hazard right now.”

Images from last year showed the Stone Mountain Tennis Center’s main stadium in disrepair. It was closed in 2007. Plants sprouted from cracks in the court surface. It is surrounded by a chain-link fence capped by barbed wire with a “no trespassing” sign.

“It’s a huge liability with people breaking in and going in and shooting videos of themselves doing all sorts of crazy things in there,” Commissioner Lynette Howard said, according to the newspaper. “Somebody is going to get hurt.”

The tennis center is the latest 1996 Olympic venue to fall out of favor.

Centennial Olympic Stadium, which housed Opening and Closing Ceremonies and track and field, was downsized from 85,000 seats to 50,000 when it was converted to Turner Field for the Atlanta Braves in 1997. Now that the Braves have left Turner Field, it will be further trimmed to 23,000 seats to host Georgia State football.

The Georgia Dome, home of gymnastics and basketball finals, hosted its last Atlanta Falcons game this past season. It is scheduled to be demolished.

Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the home for Olympic baseball and the Braves from 1966-96, was imploded after the Atlanta Games to make room for a parking lot for Turner Field.

Perhaps the saddest legacy of the Games is Herndon Stadium, a 15,000-seat field hockey stadium used during the filming of the movie “We Are Marshall.” It was abandoned after Morris Brown College ran into financial difficulties. Gutted by vandals, it was covered in graffiti and piles of trash as of last summer.

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PHOTOS: Atlanta Olympic venues, 20 years later

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Watch Olympic Channel documentary on 1996 Atlanta Games legacy

Magnificent Seven gymnastics
Getty Images
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“Flame Catchers,” an Olympic Channel documentary series highlighting Olympic Games legacies, looked at the Centennial Games with a profile of Atlanta 1996.

The half-hour film focused on the Magnificent Seven, the U.S. women’s soccer team and the conclusion of the torch relay with Muhammad Ali famously lighting the cauldron.

Watch the full “Flame Catchers” episode here.

Interviews were done with 1996 Olympians Shannon Miller and Janet Evans, as well as Billy Payne, the CEO of the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee. Plus, Kyla Ross, a gymnast inspired by Atlanta 1996 who went on to take gold with the Fierce Five in London.

Other “Flame Catchers” episodes looked at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

The U.S. could host the Summer Games for the first time since Atlanta in 2024, should Los Angeles win an International Olympic Committee members vote in September. The 2024 host city will be decided among LA, Budapest and Paris.

The LA Games dates would be the exact same as Atlanta 1996 — July 19-Aug. 4.

PHOTOS: Atlanta Olympic venues, 20 years later