The Olympic Torch Relay for the 1996 Summer Games passes through Delaware on June 19, 1996. By this point, the torch was nearing the end of a long journey, the American leg of which had begun on the West Coast in Los Angeles on April 27th. As the torch criss-crossed the country making its way eastwards to open the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, it passed through 42 states by road, rail, boat, and even Pony Express before finally finishing in Atlanta on July 19, 1996.
The Delaware leg of the torch’s journey took place on Wednesday, June 19th, day 54 of the 84-day, 15,000 mile trek. Twenty-five Delawareans from all walks of life and ranging in age from 12-71 were selected to carry it. Day 54 of the relay began in Philadelphia and ended in Baltimore. The first Delawarean to welcome the torch to our state was Mary Steppi of Wilmington, a girls’ track coach at McKean High School. The torch then proceeded to Rodney Square in Wilmington, where it was borne in for a noon welcome ceremony by Franklin Shakespeare, a gold medalist with the 1952 Olympic rowing team. Then it was off to the University of Delaware’s Robinson Hall for another in-state welcome before the torch exited for Maryland. All in all, it spent about three hours in Delaware.
Although our small state meant that the torch’s dash through Delaware was fairly quick, a remembrance of its time here still survives as part of our collections. This vinyl banner was part of the decorations for the welcome ceremony at Rodney Square in Wilmington.