The Games of the XXVI Olympiad, held in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996, were special for several reasons. Also known as the Centennial Olympics, this quadrennial competition marked the 100th anniversary of the first modern games held in Athens, Greece in 1896.
Several sports were introduced into the Olympics for the first time, including beach volleyball, mountain biking, softball, lightweight rowing, women’s swimming, women’s fencing, women’s association football, and team rhythmic dancing. Eleven former Soviet republics participated for the first time as independent nations.
Because Atlanta is landlocked, it was decided that the yachting events (which required open water) would be held in Savannah. On July 19, 1996, the Olympic Torch landed in Savannah aboard the schooner America at Morrell Park before being carried throughout the city.
On the following day, the cauldron that now exists with a copper “flame” as part of the monument, was lit with the original flame from Olympia, Greece, burning brightly along the bank of the Savannah River to kick off Savannah’s Opening Ceremony.
The yachting events took place in the Wassaw Sound off of the Atlantic Ocean near the Savannah River. This marked the only time the Olympic Flame has ever been lit in a location outside of the host city in the history of The Games.
The monument was designed by blacksmith Ivan Bailey. The sculpture features five fluted columns, inspired by the Porch of the Maidens at the Athens Acropolis. There were originally six, but one was removed for a more interesting visual effect and also to represent the five Olympic rings.
The sculpture also features a ring of six sails encircling the copper flame, each representing one of the boats involved in the race.