The 1988 Seoul Olympics were happily the first since Munich’72,
where there was no organized boycott. The only political dispute occured when the
IOC turned down the North Koreans’ demand to co-host the Games.
In response,North Korea, Cuba and Ethiopia stayed away.
Due to the close proximity (30 miles) of Seoul to the North
and the possibility of student demonstrations for reunification there were also
more security personnel (100,000+) than at any past Games.
But in spite of all this , more countries (159) sent more athletes (9,465)
to South Korea than to any previous Olympics. Also, 27 new world records were set.
Unfortunately, however, these games will probably forever be remembered for the use of performance enhancing drugs.
This issue came to a head when one of those caught was the Canadian runner Ben Johnson.
Johnson beat Carl Lewis (the defending champion from the USA)
in the 100m dash with a world record time of 9.79.
Three days later, however, Johnson was stripped of his gold medal and world record
and then sent home .The reason being that after the race , a new drug test showed positive for steroid use.
Carl Lewis, who finished second in the 100m, was then awarded the gold.
Johnson was banned from ever representing Canada again.This ban was later reduced to 2 years.
The use of performance enhancing drugs in sport was nothing new.
For example, in 1904, the winner of the
marathon, Thomas Hicks, was administered strychnine and brandy during the race.
Following Johnson’s 1988 humiliation, (as well as the stories of drug use by athletes
from the former Eastern Block countries that came out following the collapse
of Communism), the Canadian government and
other governments around the world carried out investigations
into the use of banned substances
by their athletes.The investigations showed that the use of steroids was widespread
and extremely sophisticated. Today,the list of banned substances
continues to grow, & their sophistication & ability to avoid detection
With, nearly all countries now participating, the USSR & its Communist allies showed
their superiority over the West. They (USSR & East Germany) finished 1st & 2nd on the medals
table.The star of these Olympics was without doubt East Germany’s swimmer Kristin Otto.
He won the most gold medals (6), comming close to equalling the record of Mark Spitz who won
7 gold medals in Germany’72.
America’s Matt Biondi won 5 gold medals in these ’88 Seoul Games. He also won a silver & a bronze.
Biondi would have made it 6 golds had it not been for Anthony Nesty of Surinam.
Nesty, the only swimmer representing Surinam,
defeated Biondi in the 200m butterfly by 0.01 seconds. Nesty’s time was 53secs.
Greg Louganis (U.S.), again won both men’s
springboard and platform diving events as he did in Los Angeles’84,
In athletics, one woman stood out :
of the United States. She claimed 4 gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay, and silver
in the 4x400m relay.
Nick-named , ” Flo-Jo” , Florence set a new world record of 21.34 seconds in the 200m.
She also ran the fastest women’s 100m (10.54 secs) but this record doesn’t stand as it is
considered “wind assisted”.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (U.S.),, also won the long
jump and heptathlon.
In the men’s athletics, Sergei Bubka of the USSR, set a new Olympic Record in the
pole vault(5.90). He did this with only one attempt.
The USSR also took out the silver & the bronze
in this event.
The men’s middle & long distance events (with the exception of the marathon) went to
Africian nations. The 800m , the 1500m , and the 5000m were won respectively
by Kenyans: Paul Ereng ,Peter Rono & John Ngugi.
The 10,000m was won by Morocco’s Brahim Boutaib.
The only aberation to this Africian dominance was in the
marathon where Gelindo Bordin of Italy
won the gold.
In men’s basketball,the U.S. team had to settle for third place after
losing to the gold medal-winning Soviets, 82-76, in the semifinals.
Yugoslavia took the silver.
The US volleyball team had more luck. They won a second gold since the
Los Angeles’84 Olympics.They beat their #1 rival , the USSR in the final.
These Olympics also saw the return of Women’s tennis , after 64 years.
Steffi Graf of Germany won the singles, adding an
Olympic gold medal to her Grand Slam sweep in tennis.
In the men’s singles, Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia, won the gold.
Finally, in the women’s gymnastics, Daniela Silivas of Romania, won 3 gold medals in
the floor, the beam , & in the asymmetrical bars events.
She added 2 silver medals to her tally, in the individual & combined team exercises,
and just for good measure , she won a bronze in the horse vault.