1988 Summer Olympics

Facts

Competition type Olympic Games
Host city (Venues)
Opening ceremony 17 September
Closing ceremony 2 October
Competition dates 17 September – 2 October
OCOG Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee
Participants 8454 from 159 countries
Medal events 237 in 30 disciplines
Other events 28 in 5 disciplines

Overview

In late September 1981, when the IOC awarded the 1988 Olympics to Seoul, the Olympic world was surprised, as the choice was highly controversial as many prominent nations in the Olympic Movement, notably the Soviet Bloc nations, did not have diplomatic relations with the Seoul government. After the political problems that had marred the last few Olympics, there was widespread concern that another boycott would ensue because of this.

The problem became more complicated in July 1985 when DPR (North) Korea demanded that it be allowed to co-host the Games with the Republic of Korea. Over the next three years the IOC negotiated with DPR Korea and offered to allow it to stage several events. However, this never occurred and DPR Korea subsequently announced that it would not attend the Seoul Olympics.

By then, however, most of the Eastern Bloc countries had agreed to compete in Seoul, making 1988 the first Summer Olympic competition in 12 years between the United States, the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic. After DPR Korea’s final announcement, Cuba and Ethiopia also announced that they would not attend the Olympics, out of solidarity. Nicaragua, Albania, and the Seychelles also did not attend the Olympics, though their reasons were less clear and may not have been directly related.

The Seoul Games went on and saw the largest participation in Olympics history. There were more nations and more countries represented than ever before. The Games themselves were excellent and very well run. Controversies and political intrusions, unlike the Games of the last 20 years, were relatively few and comparatively minor.

Three swimmers and one female track & field athlete dominated the sporting events. In the pool, the GDR’s Kristin Otto broke all sorts of records by winning six gold medals. It was an unmatched performance by a woman at the Olympics. Her only rival for swimming supremacy was America’s Janet Evans who won three gold medals. But they never raced each other, as Otto was a sprinter and Evans a distance swimmer.

On the men’s side of the pool, Matt Biondi was attempting to equal Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals. He failed in his first two events, taking a silver and a bronze. However, he then won gold in his last five events, to equal Spitz’s haul of seven medals, though they had a bit less lustre.

On the track, the world was stunned by the performances of Florence Griffith Joyner. A solid world-class sprinter for a decade, she had re-dedicated herself in 1988 and had shattered records at the US Olympic Trials. At the Olympics she won the 100 and 200, setting a world record in the 200 final. In the 100, she posted a time that was wind-aided, but was otherwise the fastest time ever recorded. She then helped the American women win a gold medal in the 4×100 relay. Finally, she was asked by the American coaches to run anchor in the 4×400 relay. She did so, and narrowly missed catching the Soviet’s Olha Bryzhina, as the Americans won a silver medal, in what many athletics fans consider one of the greatest races ever contested. Griffith Joyner’s total haul was three gold medals and one silver.

Unfortunately, the biggest media event of the 1988 Olympic Games was the disqualification of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, after he had won the 100 metres in the world record time of 9.79, defeating Carl Lewis in the process. A few days later, Johnson tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid, and was disqualified with Lewis receiving the gold medal. After the uproar of the scandal, the Canadian launched an inquiry into drug use in international sport, the Dubin Inquiry. At the inquiry, Johnson admitted he had used steroids for several years.

One of Seoul’s legacies to the Olympic Movement was a new Olympic Flag. The main Olympic flag was termed the Antwerp flag, because it had been made in 1920 and donated to the IOC by the Antwerp organizing committee. However, the flag was now worn and it was soon to be retired to the Olympic Museum. Seoul provided the IOC with a replacement, fashioned from pure raw Korean silk, with the needlework done by skilled Korean craftsmen. Thus, the Seoul legacy will literally fly over many future Olympic Games.

Bid process

Bid voting at the 84th IOC Session in Baden-Baden, West Germany on 30 September 1981.

Round 1
Seoul South Korea 52
Nagoya Japan 27

Ceremonies

Officially opened by Roh Tae-Woo (President)
Torchbearer(s) Son Gi-Jeong, Kim Won-Tak (Lit flame), Sohn Mi-Chung (Lit flame), Im Chun-Ae, Chung Sun-Man (Lit flame)
Taker of the Athlete's Oath Son Mi-Na, Heo Jae
Taker of the Official's Oath Lee Hak-Rae (Judo)
Flagbearers Full list
Olympic Flag Bearers Yang Jeong-Mo, Yu In-Tak, Kim Won-Gi, Sin Jun-Seop, Jo Hye-Jeong, Choi Ae-Yeong, Yun Su-Gyeong, Seo Hyang-Sun

Medal Disciplines

Archery Equestrian Dressage Rowing
Artistic Gymnastics Equestrian Eventing Sailing
Artistic Swimming Equestrian Jumping Shooting
Athletics Fencing Swimming
Basketball Football Table Tennis
Boxing Handball Tennis
Canoe Sprint Hockey Volleyball
Cycling Road Judo Water Polo
Cycling Track Modern Pentathlon Weightlifting
Diving Rhythmic Gymnastics Wrestling

Other Disciplines

Athletics Bowling Taekwondo
Baseball Judo

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Soviet Union URS 55 31 46 132
East Germany GDR 37 35 30 102
United States USA 36 31 27 94
Republic of Korea KOR 12 10 11 33
West Germany FRG 11 14 15 40
Hungary HUN 11 6 6 23
Bulgaria BUL 10 12 13 35
Romania ROU 7 11 6 24
France FRA 6 4 6 16
Italy ITA 6 4 4 14
People's Republic of China CHN 5 11 12 28
Great Britain GBR 5 10 9 24
Kenya KEN 5 2 2 9
Japan JPN 4 3 7 14
Australia AUS 3 6 5 14
Yugoslavia YUG 3 4 5 12
Czechoslovakia TCH 3 3 2 8
New Zealand NZL 3 2 8 13
Canada CAN 3 2 5 10
Poland POL 2 5 9 16
Norway NOR 2 3 0 5
Netherlands NED 2 2 5 9
Denmark DEN 2 1 1 4
Brazil BRA 1 2 3 6
Finland FIN 1 1 2 4
Spain ESP 1 1 2 4
Turkey TUR 1 1 0 2
Morocco MAR 1 0 2 3
Austria AUT 1 0 0 1
Portugal POR 1 0 0 1
Suriname SUR 1 0 0 1
Sweden SWE 0 4 7 11
Switzerland SUI 0 2 2 4
Jamaica JAM 0 2 0 2
Argentina ARG 0 1 1 2
Chile CHI 0 1 0 1
Costa Rica CRC 0 1 0 1
Indonesia INA 0 1 0 1
Islamic Republic of Iran IRI 0 1 0 1
Netherlands Antilles AHO 0 1 0 1
Peru PER 0 1 0 1
Senegal SEN 0 1 0 1
United States Virgin Islands ISV 0 1 0 1
Belgium BEL 0 0 2 2
Mexico MEX 0 0 2 2
Colombia COL 0 0 1 1
Djibouti DJI 0 0 1 1
Greece GRE 0 0 1 1
Mongolia MGL 0 0 1 1
Pakistan PAK 0 0 1 1
Philippines PHI 0 0 1 1
Thailand THA 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Kristin Otto GDR 6 0 0 6
Matt Biondi USA 5 1 1 7
Vladimir Artyomov URS 4 1 0 5
Daniela Silivaș ROU 3 2 1 6
Florence Griffith Joyner USA 3 1 0 4
Dmitry Bilozerchev URS 3 0 1 4
Janet Evans USA 3 0 0 3
Valery Lyukin URS 2 2 0 4
Svetlana Boginskaya BLR
URS
EUN
2 1 1 4
Yelena Shushunova URS 2 1 1 4

All medalists at these Games