Friday 8 June 2012

1988 Summer Olympics Seoul: XXIV Olympiad and VIII Paralympics

Ahead of the 84th IOC Congress everyone knew that the Games of the 24th Olympiad would be going to Asia as the two candidate cities were Nagoya, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. The vote in the end went 52 to 27 in favour of the South Korean capital. This was also the first time that the Paralympics were directly linked to Olympic host city as part of the remit from the IOC.

Nations 160 (+20)
Competitors 8391 (+1562)
Sports 27 (+6)
Events 263 (+42)

17 September to 2 October 1988 hosted by Seoul, South Korea


Nations 61 (+7)
Competitors 3057 (+157)
Sports 16 (-1)
Events 732 (-171)

15 to 24 October 1988 at the same venues as the Olympics

Making their first Olympic appearances were Aruba, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Guam, Maldives, Vanuatu, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and South Yemen. It was to be the only ever appearance of South Yemen at the Games as unification with North Yemen would occur before the next Olympiad.

Although none of the new nations made a mark on the Games this time they took part in Athletics, Boxing, Fencing, Judo, Swimming, Synchronized Swimming, Weightlifting and Wrestling.

New to the Paralympics were Bulgaria, Iran, Macau, Morocco, Oman, Philippines, Puerto Rico,  Singapore. Soviert Union and Tunisia.

Going for medals of saving others

In the fifth race of the Finn Class of the Olympic Sailing Regatta  Lawrence Lemieux was lying second about halfway through the race when the wind escalated from about 15 knots at the start to 35. He noticed that two sailors in the 470 class on an adjacent course were in difficulty. He went to the aid of the injured Singapore sailors Joseph Chan and Shaw Her Siew. He then waited for the official safety boat to take the two sailors on board before carrying on with his own race.

He was 22nd boat across the line but the unanimous decision of International Yacht Racing Union was to award him with the 2nd place he was in when he went to the rescue.In the end he finished 11th but was awared the Pierre de Coubertin medal with the citation from IOC President Juan Antonia Samaranch

"By your sportsmanship, self-sacrifice and courage you embody all that is right with the Olympic ideal."
 He was the first living summer Olympian to recieve the reward as the previous summer recipient had received it posthumously in 1964 for his exploits in 1936 and the second Emil Zatopek wasn't to win it for his 1952 achievements until 2000.

Gold for Suriname

Suriname had entered the Olympics in 1960, though due to a mistake in the time of heats their first competitor hadn't represented them until 1968. They sent their biggest team thus far to Seoul a total of 6 athletes. Including one swimmer who had failed to progress in the 100m freestyle or butterfly in 1984.

Matt Biondi of the USA was the favourite for the final, along with Olympic Champion West German Michael Groß and GB's Andy Jameson who had qualified fastest for the 100m butterfly final. But in between their qualifying heats and third fastest had come Anthony Nesty the first Suriname Olympian to reach a final.

Biondi turned at 50m well ahead and inside the World Record split with  Groß in second. But the American tied in the final 25 metres he took three agonising long strokes to hit the wall including a long glide, still leading on the first two but the Surinamese swimmer who had only been about fifth at the turn set the Olympic record of 53.00s an one hundreth of a second ahead of Biondi.

He became the first black man to win a medal in the Olympic pool, only Enith Brigitha of the Netherlands with two freestyle bronzes in 1976 had preceded him. He also made the 200m Butterfly final but only managed to come 8th. He attempted to defend his title in 1992 in Barcelona but only managed bronze.

Seven time for this lady

Sweden's Kerstin Palm picked up her foil for a seventh consecutive Olympic appearance in the Games. She had first competed in Tokyo in 1964 as an eighteen year old where she finished 6th. She was 5th in Mexico City (which turned out to be her best performance), 6th again in Munich, tied for 9th in Montreal, 29th in Moscow, 12th in Los Angeles.

Here in her farewell Olympic appearance she only managed to come 29th. She managed to win a total of 23 Swedish national titles the last of which was in 2008 at the age of 62.

Also at those games were athlete Merlene Ottey Jamaica (later Slovenia) in the third of her seven, French cyclist Jeannie Longo in the second of her's and canoeist Josefa Idem Guerrini West Germany (later Italy) in the second of hers. Japan's Seiko Hashimoto was at the first of her three Summer Games as a cyclist having earlier in the year taken part in the second of her four Winter Games as a speed skater.

Guerrini has qualified for her eighth games in London and will beat the record established by Palm in 1988.

Supreme Soviet Paralympian

Seoul saw the first participation by the Soviet Union in the Summer Paralympics. They were to take 21 gold, 20 silver and 15 bronze medals. Given the way history was about to unfold Seoul along with the Winter Paralympics in Innsbruck would be their only appearances in the Paralympics before the independent states arose out of what was the USSR.

It therefore means that the greatest Soviet Paralympian turned out to be Vadim Kalykov with gold in the B2 high jump, long jump, triple jump and pentathlon (the only four events he was entered for) is their greatest of all time.

The golden slam

Image from The Official Olympic Report
After a 64 year absence tennis return to the Olympic programme in Seoul. With four events men's and women's singles and doubles.

Having already won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open that year lined up against Gabriela Sabatini who in New York less than a month before she had beaten to the be the first woman since 1970, and only third ever to win a calendar Grand Slam.

In the final the German won through yet again 6-3 6-3. Therefore beating Chris Evert in Australia, Natasha Zrereva in Paris, Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon and Sabatini twice to run up an impressive array of greats as scalps in a feat that has not been repeated a Calendar Golden Slam. Four years later she would reach the Olympic final again but lost to Jennifer Capriatti. Pairing up with Claudia Kohde-Kilsch she also took doubles bronze in her golden year.

The other champions on the reappearance of tennis to the Games were
  • Men's singles Miloslav Mecir Cze
  • Men's Doubles Ken Flach and Robert Seguso USA
  • Women's Doubles Pam Shriver and Zina Garrison USA
Japan no longer top in Judo

For the first time since 1964 when it was introduced Japan failed to top medal table if they were at the Games. Indeed they only managed a solitary gold in the heavyweight division through Hitoshi Saito's defense of his title. Another defending Japanese champion Shinji Hosokawa was one of the three Japanese golds in their martial art.

Diane Bell
There was also a demonstration of women's judo before it became a full sport in four year's time. There wasn't much relief for Japan here. They only took the middleweight -66kg medal with Hikari Sasaki.

In the extra-lightweight -48kg division their judo player Fumiko Esaki lost to China's Li Zhongyun. At half-lightweight -52kg GB's Sharon Rendle triumphed over France's Dominique Brun. In lightweight -56kg that was a win for Australia's Suzanne Williams over China's Liu Guizhu. Britain also took the half-middleweight -61kg when Diane Bell beat USA's Lynn Roethke.Half-heavyweight -72kg went to Belgian Ingrid Berghmans, while heavyweight +72kg went to Netherlands fighter Angelique Seriesse.

When it became a full Olympic event of the demostration winners only Li Zhongyun, who moved up a weight, along with Shraon Rendle took medals both the bronzes in half-lightweight.

My brush with Paralympian medalist

As I mentioned before bowls while not an Olympic event was a Paralympic sport. I've also mentioned that I have played against some of the those wheelchair or otherly disabled bowlers.

Well in 1988 the pair of Willam Behan (pictured) and Frank Bell of Ireland took silver in Seoul in men's pairs 2-6 in the Paralympics.

Whilst I never met William, Frank would later end up playing in the same clubs both indoor and outdoor as me when I was last living in Bangor. Indeed he was one of the four players from that club that ended up playing in triples and rinks with me in Civil Service competitions. So I have won quite a number of trophies on the same team as a Paralympic Silver medalist.

When in Japan Korea

Image from The Official Olympic Report
As with the first Asian Games in 1964 there was a martial art that the host nation wanted to showcase to teh world. In this case it was Taekwondo. But unlike Judo in 1964 it was only to appear as a demonstration sport, something it was to do again in 1992 before becoming a full sport in Sydney 2000.

Unlike judo it started with both men's and women's contests. South Korea dominated the men's events winning all by the heavyweight, and that was lost to American Jimmy Kim of Korean descent.

The the women's contests the golds were spread a little more widely with USA winning 3,  Chinese Taipei and  South Korea  taking two, with Denmark winning the remaining gold.

Spain however, had managed 3 silvers and one bronze in the men's contests and a further silver and four bronze in the women's events which may account for why it was kept on as a demonstration event for Barcelona.

Head banging in the pool

During the preliminary rounds of the 3m springboard diving Greg Louganis stepped up to attempt a reverse 2½ pike in the ninth of the 11 rounds. He was taking part in his third Olympics having won silver in the 10m platform in Montreal 1976 and then double gold in platform and springboard in 1984. Without the USA boycott of 1980 he may well have be going for an historic double threepeat.

Though first he had to get through this preliminary round though he was leading by 8 points from Tan of China.

Then disaster struck. Coming out of the pike position to prepare to enter the water his head hit the board (pictured). As the dives were getting more difficult he managed only a 6.3 but he was also nursing a concussion, and  unknown to anyone at the time had been diagnosed with HIV 6 months before the Games. Because of the bloody nature of the head wound when he finally came out as gay and living with HIV in 1994 there was some outrage that he hadn't made this known at the time of the incident in Seoul.

He got himself patched up and got ready to carry on, his next dive was the best of the preliminaries, by anybody scoring 87.12. He had one more dive and although not scoring big marks was comfortable enough for the for the following day's final.

He took the lead in round one and although he briefly lost it from round 3 he ended up winning by more that 25 point. On dive 9 when he was back in the lead he pulled off the reverse 2½ pike scoring 76.5 the second highest score of the round.

A week later he had added his second gold of these Games and his fourth in all with a lead of just 1.14 on 638.61.

He had been the first man since 1928 and the early says of diving Olympics to pull off the individual double, and in 1988 he became the only man to successfully defend the double. Indeed it was only ever done by one other diver Pat McCormick in the 1950s.

See also my full list of blog posts about past Olympics

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