Seoul 1988

Seoul Olympics 1988

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After extensive political boycotts at the preceding three Olympic Games almost all IOC's national members were again gathered at the Seoul olympics, which was held from September 17 to 2nd of October 1988.

It was a big surprise when Seoul at the IOC Session in Baden-Baden in 1981 was awarded the Olympic Games in 1988 in competition with Nagoya, Athens and Melbourne. The political situation in South Korea was anything but stable, and choosing Seoul seemed to be a risky decision.

It turned out that the IOC had assessed the situation correctly. The Koreans launched a comprehensive program of economic reform, a democratization process in the country secured a free constitution, and Seoul with an investment of 3.1 billion $ created a perfect setting for the 24th Summer Olympics in 1988.

Seoul 1988 was not completely free of political trouble and boycotts, as seven of the IOC national members refused to attend. North Korea stayed away in bitterness over not being recognized as co-organizer. In solidarity with North Korea, Cuba, Ethiopia, Albania and the Seychelles did not participate. Nicaragua withdrew because of a domestic civil war troubles, and Madagascar withdrew for financial reasons. Finally, South Africa was still excluded from participation because of its racial policies.

Seoul was in 1988 a modern metropolis with more than 10 million people and was considered the world's sixth largest city at that time. Seoul mixed an Eastern traditional lifestyles with a vibrant commercial life with a clear Western orientation. The new Olympic stadium with seating for 70,000 spectators was placed on the Han river's south bank, a few kilometers from Seoul's city center.

In the Seoul 1988 olympics, athletes competed in 237 disciplines in 25 sports. Compared to the previous games in Los Angeles table tennis was a new olympic sport, while tennis after 64 years of absence once again was included in the olympic program. In relation to tennis the IOC now accepted the participation of a number of tennis players who annually earned millions on their sport. The olympics was still officially only for amateurs, but this condition was considered fulfilled for players who were members of an amateur association. This was the situation for tennis players - in contrast to for example professional boxers and professional cyclists who were members in a professional association and therefore could not compete in the Seoul olympics.

The biggest headlines from Seoul 1988 was spent on Canadian Ben Johnson. The day after his victory in the men's 100 meters race in a new world record time he was exposed in a doping fraud case. Ben Johnson was far from being the first olympic athlete to be nailed for doping, but he was the first of the really big names that were caught.

The Seoul olympics were, however, also marked by a number of top performances. East German swimmer Kristin Otto won six gold medals. American Matt Biondi won seven medals in the swimming pool, including five gold. Greg Louganis, U.S., became the first diver to win gold in both the 3 meter diving board and from the tower in two olympic games. In the athletics stadium Florence Griffith-Joyner, USA, impressed with three gold medals and a number of unique records. For the second time in a row Carl Lewis, USA, won the gold medal in both the 100 meters race and the long jump.

For the first time since 1976, the three olympic superpowers were all present in Seoul 1988, and the relative position between them in relation to gold medals won was unchanged compared to 1976. The Soviet Union was best nation in front of East Germany and the U.S. After these three host nation South Korea followed in fourth position at the Seoul olympics.

Follow this link for a detailed and interactive medal standing for Seoul 1988.
This story about the Seoul Olympics 1988 is based on the official Olympic reports and the Olympian Database
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