Muhammad Ali

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

Jesse Owens’ family to present award to Muhammad Ali’s wife at Team USA Awards

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One of Jesse Owens‘ granddaughters will present an award to Muhammad Ali‘s wife, Lonnie Ali, at the Team USA Awards in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 28.

The U.S. Olympic Committee announced the inaugural Jesse Owens Spirit Award that will be posthumously bestowed to Ali at the event.

The annual award “will recognize an individual(s) who has served as a powerful force for good in society, inspiring others by contributing to a better world, uniting people or leading a cause,” the U.S. Olympic Committee said in a press release.

“Our father believed in the power of the Olympic spirit, and felt that its capacity to spread goodness throughout the world has no boundaries,” Marlene Owens-Rankin, one of Owens’ three daughters, said in a press release. “We are honored that the USOC has created this new award in his name to recognize individuals for the positive impact they make on society. We greatly appreciate the USOC for recognizing our father with the initiation of this award.”

Ali died at age 74 on June 3. He won Olympic light heavyweight gold in 1960 and lit the Olympic cauldron in 1996.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of Owens’ triumph at the Berlin Olympics — four gold medals in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

“Muhammad believed with his whole heart in service to others and in advocating for those in need, and he was always proud of how the Olympic Movement could ignite that flame and unite the world in so many ways,” Lonnie Ali said in a press release. “I am honored to accept the Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award on his behalf, and to encourage young people everywhere to harness that spirit and compassion to make their own impact on the world and to leave it a better place for future generations.”

MORE: Nominees for Team USA Olympic awards

Boxing gloves hang near Atlanta Olympic cauldron for Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali
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A pair of red boxing gloves were placed on a beam near the Atlanta Olympic cauldron the day after Muhammad Ali died, according to Atlanta media.

Ali, who died at age 74 on Friday, lit the 1996 Olympic cauldron in Atlanta in one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history.

Video of Ali’s cauldron lighting is here.

The Atlanta Olympic cauldron was moved after the 1996 Games, as the Atlanta Braves occupied Centennial Olympic Stadium that was renamed Turner Field. The Braves are leaving Turner Field in 2017.

VIDEO: Janet Evans relives Olympic Flame passing to Ali