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The 1996 Nashville Olympics....Say What?

August 27, 2016

Did you know that Nashville has a history with the Olympics? It's not a big one mind you, but it exists. Today, we recognize the 1996 Olympics as the last Summer Olympics that any U.S. city hosted, and that was in Atlanta (Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002). But what about Nashville? A lot of people might think we're too small and don't have the infrastructure, but that wasn't the concern many years ago when Nashville put together a pretty strong campaign to host the 1996 Olympics. 


The 1960 TSU Tigerbelles women's track team and Olympic athletes, with coach Ed Temple.

Can you imagine what Nashville would look like today if they had won their bid of hosting the 1996 Olympics? It already seems like it actually considering how rapidly fast Nashville is growing; you'd think we would have already hosted the Olympics and the Super Bowl in the same year. But if they had won, the infrastructure probably would look a lot like Atlanta (even though our traffic already does), and I have some evidence to prove it. 

Among the Metro Archives' many, many documents and collections, there lives a box of papers from (and just after) Mayor Fulton's days in office. Along with a bid for the Olympics, Fulton was also involved in the city's attempt at securing a Pro Spring football team in the early 1990's. As well as a Pro Baseball affiliate, and Soccer, and etc. Well you see none of that happened, but obviously down the road, we eventually received an NFL franchise of our own, and a pro soccer team. 

Fulton was active in Nashville's initiative to broaden its sports presence. Many of his plans may not have panned out, but they could possibly have inspired the sports market we currently have now. And if we had won the 1996 Olympics' bid, you really never know what might of happened. But here are a few of the details from Nashville's package for the '96 Olympics:

  • There are no documents within the collection that explain why Nashville wasn't chosen, nor is there an official package that was submitted to the USOC (United States Olympic Committee), but from the few news clippings, memos, and reports - you get a general sense of what Nashville was planning and what it could afford. For example, check out the picture above, outlining the building plans. These games were going to be spread throughout the county. 
  • Between a 10-month span, starting March, 1987 to January 1988, bidding cities followed a strict schedule of submitting materials. This started with a seminar in Colorado Springs, Colorado, providing the bidding cities with the information they needed to qualify. 
  • According to the accountant's report for financial projections, the total amount of projected revenues/support equaled the amount of total expenditures. Which was the nice round number of $771,000,000, presented in "1987 dollars."
  • Besides Nashville and the obvious Atlanta, other cities in the running for the 1996 Olympics and attending the seminar in March were: Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. 
  • The outdoor stadium (capacity = 75,000-100,000) used for the opening/closing ceremonies, track and field events, and the finals for soccer competition was planned by Nashville carefully. The proposed sites for the stadium included: the old airport (for its good interstate access and adequate land for parking), Bell's Bend (large amount of acreage at 1,000 acres), Ingram Industries Site (location - across the river from downtown with easy access to the convention center and other facilities), Pennington Bend (location near Opryland before it closed in 1997, potential for being served by monorail connecting Opryland, the airport, and downtown), southeastern area of the city (the planning commission informed committee that there is more land available in this part of the city than in any other sector at the time - accessible from I-24 and I-65), Fairgrounds (118 acres owned by the city and located between 2 interstates).
  • The indoor stadium (capacity 15,000-20,000) used for Gymnastics and a variety of other sports depending on the schedule was planned in Nashville to be located across Broadway from the Convention Center...a.k.a Bridgestone Arena. So I guess that dream actually happened. 
  • The Velodrome was meant to be the site for the bicycle racing and seated between 6,000-10,000 people. The locations proposed for this stadium were the Brentwood area (close to Murray Ohio headquarters and can use the roadways for the road races), the fairgrounds (they are again city-owned and have parking facilities), or the old airport (could be a good location if not used for the building of the outdoor stadium).

I guess we can leave it up to the imagination of why Nashville wasn't chosen to host the 1996 Olympics. But it would have been pretty awesome, I think. There's still hope for the future.

Here are a few of the other documents from the collection...




'Til next time, 


lucille ball


Sarah is a Program Coordinator with Metro Archives. Her interests and areas of expertise are history, reading books (of any kind), music, travel, Harry Potter, and bingeing a good comedy series. When not in Archives, she is either nose-deep in a book or planning her next trip. Learn more about the fascinating materials found at Metro Archives through their website.