ICONIC! When Muhammad Ali Lit the Olympic Flame While Suffering From Parkinson’s Disease

Published 07/19/2021, 12:05 PM EDT


Exactly a quarter of a century ago, the world stood still with their eyes glued to their television screens as the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games got underway.

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A momentous day in the history of the United States, as the country geared up to host its eighth Olympic Games. The games also marked the centennial celebrations of the modern-day Olympic Games. And the special occasion deserved a special opening ceremony. 

On July 19, 1996, the Centennial Olympic Stadium at Atlanta was filled to the brim with supporters. With over 85,000 fans in attendance, the crowd had no idea what was in store for them.

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The day Muhammad Ali capped off a historic Olympic moment  

While the opening ceremony was underway, the crowd had no clue that Boxing legend and Olympic Gold medalist Muhammad Ali was at the venue as well. 

And he wasn’t there just to spectate. The legendary boxer was there to light the Olympic cauldron. But this of course was a secret. One that the organizers of the event tried their level best to not leak. 

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But it was a tough task to keep everyone’s attention away from Ali. The boxer apparently was adamant about getting a haircut and did so at a local barbershop. 

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over Sonny Liston and taunts him to get up during their title fight. Ali knocked Liston out in one minute in the first round during their bout. The fight was held at the Central Maine Youth Center in Lewiston, Maine.

This drew in massive crowds as people were stunned to see Ali in the flesh. The organizers though soon escorted Ali from the barbershop and off they were to the venue. 

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And after finally reaching the stadium, the world watched in awe as the man was once known to “fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee” battled his debilitating disease. 

By then, Muhammad Ali was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. But even that could not stop Ali from drawing in the crowds’ applause and cheers.

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With his hands visibly shaking, the former Olympic Gold medalist raised the Olympic torch high and above for all to see. And then, the historic moment took place as Ali in spectacular fashion lit the Olympic flame signaling the start of the 1996 Atlanta Games.

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Shivayan Roy

940 articles

Shivayan Roy is currently an NFL writer at EssentiallySports. After completing his Masters Diploma in Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Roy functioned as a reporter for Goal.com and extensively covered the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

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