Scene at Olympic Tower on Lake Lanier from 1996 Olympic rowing event

Timing Tower/finish line during a 1996 Olympic Rowing event

The fire of the Olympic spirit will sparkle again Aug. 7 as Gainesville celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the 1996 Olympics. Beginning with a morning torch run and culminating with fireworks over Lake Lanier, the day will commemorate the legacy of the ’96 Games that brought the world to Lanier for canoe/kayak and rowing events.

A 5K run and 1-mile walk, The Porch to Torch Fun Run, will start at 8 a.m. at City Park in Gainesville and follow much of the course of 1996 local Olympic torch runners. “We hope to have some of the torch bearers from the ’96 Olympics in a pace car at the beginning,” said Mimi Collins, Chair of the Olympic Park Foundation. The celebration committee is working with the Northeast Georgia History Museum and Quinlan Visual Arts Center to stage a mini-Olympic village and interactive exhibits at City Park after the race.

The organizing committee composed of  Collins, foundation vice-chair Dixie Truelove and Gainesville tourism director Robyn Lynch plan an evening gala at Lake Lanier Olympic Park with an international flair. “The five Olympic rings represent the five regions of the world … the experience we (want to create) is that of going through the world,” Lynch said. Beginning at 6 p.m. attendees can walk through the rings, sampling food, beer, wine, entertainment and culture of Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Oceana (Pacific Islands).

At 8 p.m. Georgia band “We’ve Got the Beat” hits the medal winners’ circle with a repertoire ranging from Abba to Zac Brown. The evening climaxes with fireworks reflecting over the site where Olympic contenders raced a quarter-century ago.

The event kicks off fundraising for the next phase of LLOP renovations, which include a third courtesy dock, an all-weather pavilion at the grandstands, and a plaza to beach sidewalk. Individual tickets cost $100. Sponsorship packages range from $750 to $1,500.

25th Anniversary Olympic Celebration

  • Porch to Torch 5K/1-mile: Follow course run by local Olympic torchbearers, plus interactive mini-Olympic Village, 8 a.m. Aug. 7, City Park, 549 Glenwood Ave. NE., Gainesville. $30.
  • Evening Gala: International food, beverages and music, plus main stage concert and fireworks, 6 p.m. Aug. 7, Lake Lanier Olympic Park, 3105 Clarks Bridge Rd., Gainesville. $100 individuals, sponsorships available.
  • More info:
  • Sponsorship information: Robyn Lynch, 770-297-5499,

Photo: by Alan Hope