The 1992 Olympic Games are probably best remembered for one of the most
spectacular and stylish opening ceremonies of all time .
Held in the neo-classical Olympic Stadium
on Montjuic, there were performances by the Spanish Opera stars, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras,
and Monserrat Caballe. Other highlights included the mythical
birth of Barcelona from the sea,
followed by ocean battles between sea monsters & humans.
<br>Much praise was also given to the many other sporting facilities
which were either built from scratch (such as the 1700 seat Sant Jordi Sports Palace)
or that were refurbished and modernised from existing buildings.
<br>Barcelona put on many fine cultural events to complement the sport.
All this put Barcelona firmly back onto the tourist map.
These Games where also very special for the IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, for they
were held in his native region of Catalonia, Spain.
Samaranch was foremost in supporting the commercialisation of the Olympics.
This resulted in the IOC taking in millions on dollars in revenue (mainly from the sale
of television broadcasting rights).
Communism had just fallen in Eastern Europe and
the reunification of Germany (1990) was underway.
The Soviet Union, once a powerhouse in the athletic world, competed for the last time
as the Unified Team.
This team was made up of 12 nations from the former USSR.
In comparison , Germany competed under
one flag for the first time since 1964.
There were no boycots during these Games.
Both Cuba and North Korea returned after 12 years
and South Africa was welcomed back after 32,
as its government had finally put an end to
its apartheid policies.
<br>A record 10,563 athletes from 172 nations attended. – A new record.
These Olympics also saw the final demise
of one of de Coubertin’s primary ideals – that
of amateurism .
Thus , for the first time in 96 years, professional athletes were allowed to compete.
<br><b>Basketball</b> was one of the chief beneficiaries.
The U.S. Dream Team of NBA (National Basketball Association) All-Stars easily captured the gold ,
defeating Croatia, 117-85.
The team included such legends as <b>Charles Barkley</b> and <b>Earvin “Magic” Johnson</b>.
<b>Carl Lewis</b> earned his 7th and 8th
(career) gold medals with a 3rd consecutive Olympic win
in the long jump(8.67metres), and an anchor-leg performance
on the US 4x100m relay team .This team, which also included <b>Leroy Burrell,
Mike Marsh and Dennis Mitchell</b>, set a world record of 37.40 seconds.
Lewis, won the long jump on his first attempt defeating teammate <b>Mike Powel</b>
who had previously defeated Lewis at the 1991 world championships in Tokyo.
These 2 golds were some consolation for Lewis as he had failed to gain an individual
sprint place with the US team.
At 32 years of age,Jamaican-born
who was running for Great Britain won the men’s 100m.
He beat Namibia’s <b>Frank Fredericks</b>, and <b>Dennis Mitchel</b> of the US.
This made Christie the
oldest sprint champion at any Games.The following year,
Christie won the World championship.
In female athletics, the 30 year old American <b>Jackie Joyner-Kersee</b>
won her second consecutive heptathlon gold.
She was the sister of the 1984 triple-jump champion ,Al Joyner.
With 7044 points, she defeated <b>Irina Belova</b>
(6845 points, Unified Team) and <b>Sabine Braun</b>(6649 points, Germany).
The U.S. won the women’s 4x100m relay.This team was lead by 4-time Olympic sprinter
<b>Evelyn Ashford</b> . <b>Gwen Torrence</b> was the anchor.
The women’s 100m was won by
<b>Gail Devers</b> of the U.S.
This was a personal triumph for the American as her feet had
nearly been amputated by doctors in 1990 as
a result of radiation treatment for Graves’ disease.
She nearly won a second title (200m hurdles) , but fell, letting <b>Paraskevi Patoulidou</b> of Greece
take the gold. This was the first gold medal that a Greek woman athlete had ever won.
</p><p>In swimming, the defending world champion,
<b>Summer Sanders </b>of the U.S.,
took the gold in the 200m butterfly event with a time of 2 minutes, 8.67 seconds.
This race was so fast that the first 7 finishers
all set personal best records. The runners up were <b>Wang Xiaohong</b> of China (2:09.01), and
<b>Susie O’Neill</b> of Australia (2:09.03)
</p><p><b>Janet Evans </b> (U.S.) won her 2nd consecutive
gold in the 800m freestyle.
Evans had not lost an 800m race in five years.
She lead from the start of the race to its finish and won by eight metres.
The most successful female swimmer was <b>Krisztina Egerszegi</b> of Hungary. She won
golds in the 100 & 200m backstroke, and the 400m individual medley.
The most successful male swimmer was <b>Yevgeni Sadovyi</b> of the Unified Team. He won the
200m & 400m freestyle, and was part of the 4x100m freestyle relay team.
At 13, <b>Fu Mingxia</b>, of China, won the
women’s platform (highboard) diving gold .This made her the second-youngest
person to win an individual gold medal.
The Chinese dominated the diving with <b>Gao Min</b> winning the women’s spring board, and
<b>Sun Shuwei</b> winning the men’s highboard.
The only non Chinese athlete to win a diving gold medal was
<b>Mark Lenzi</b> of the USA (spring board).
In gymnastics, <b>Vitaly Scherbo</b> of Belarus,
competing for the Unified Team, won six golds.
He was easily the most successful athlete at these Games.
</p><p><b>Cuba</b> returned with a vengence, winning 7 boxing golds as well as a gold in baseball.