There were many changes to the cycling program in 1996 with another discipline of cycling added to the program as mountain biking made its Olympic début, with individual cross-country events for both men and women. Mountain biking had become popular in the 1980s with new bikes with thicker, heavier tires, and special shocks.
World Championships were first conducted in 1990 for both men and women. At the World Championships, several different events are contested, notably cross-country and downhill, but only cross-country was added to the Olympic Program.
The 1996 Olympic mountain biking events were held at the Georgia International Horse Park, where the equestrian events were also contested, with the men racing over 48.7 km. and the women over 31.9 km. The initial gold medals in this discipline were won by Italian Paola Pezzo, who would defend her title at Sydney in 2000, and the Netherlands’ Bart Brentjens.