Friday 15 June 2012

1992 Summer Olympics Barcelona : XXV Olympiad

It was a bit of a battle of the Bs for the right to host the 1992 Games, seeing as four of the six candidate cities started with that letter. Brisbane (Australia), Belgrade (Yugoslavia), Birmingham (Great Britain) and Barcelona (Spain) along with Paris (France) and Amsterdam (Netherlands).

In the first round of voting at the 91st IOC Session in Lausanne in Octobner 1986 the Spanish city took 29 votes in the first round 10 ahead of Paris who were six ahead of Belgrade, a further 2 back to Brisbane on 11 with Birmingham on 8 and Amsterdam 5.

Amsterdam were eliminated for round two, but Belgrade and Brisbane both lost 2 votes. Paris picked up 1 and Barcelona 8. On the third round the city that was the birthplace of the then IOC President Juan Antonio Samarach gained a further 10 votes and the Games were heading to Barcelona, they had been a candidate once before in 1936 losing out to Berlin.

Nations 169 (+9)
Competitors 9356 (+955)
Sports 32 (+5)
Events 286 (+23)

25 July to 8 August, 1992 hosted by Barcelona


Nations 82 (+21)
Competitors 3020 (-37)
Sports 15 (-1)
Events 487 (-245)

3 to 14 September, 1992 in the same venues

A lot had changed politically in the world since the last Olympiad.

  • Germany had united as a nation and therefore for the first time since 1964 they sent one team for all Germany
  • Yemen had also united so South Yemen only appeared at one Games as a separate nation those of 1988
  • Yugoslavia, who  six years earlier had been attempting to host the Games in Belgrade, was still in the midst of war. Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina sent their own teams for the first time. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was banned but individual athletes did take part as Independent Olympic Participants under the Olympic Flag
  • The mighty USSR was in the process of breaking up. The Baltic States took part as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania while the rest took part as the Unified Team also under the Olympic Flag
  • Namibia which had gained full independence from South Africa in 1990 also made it's debut

Of those Independent Olympic Participants from Yugoslavia Jasna Šekarić won silver in the Women's 10m Air Pistol, with bronzes for Aranka Binder (Women's 10m Air Rifle) and Stevan Pletikosić (Men's 50m Rifle prone). The Unified Team of the remaining former USSR States rose to the top flag pole 45 times.

New Territory Diamond Coast turns silver

Namibia being the only really new area of the world to take part actually was one of the most successful new 'territories' for a while with two silvers from their team of six. But that  was all down to one man.

Just after independence Namibia were allowed to take part in the World Athletics championships in 1991 World Athletics Championships in Tokyo, but for Michael Johnson in the men's 200m they could have had a golden start.

So it was that a year later Frankie Fredericks was already amongst the favourites for the half lap, although Johnson was, as the fastest man in the world for the previous two seasons, still going to be the man to beat. Johnson though had contracted food poisoning two weeks before the games and in his weakened state only managed to come 6th in this semi-final.

With Johnson out of the final the Namibian lined up with the other two Americans, two Nigerians, two Brits and Robson da Silva from Brazil. Michael Marsh of the USA had won the fastest semi in 20.08, while Frankie had won the other but Fredericks had run the fastest time to far in qualifying 20.02 in his quarter final. It looked like a time of under 20 seconds would be required by one of them to take gold.

In the end Marsh ran only 20.01 but it was 0.17 seconds faster that Federicks who would have to settle for silver again. Five days earlier he had run 10.02 in the 100m final only to lose out to Britain's Linford Christie who ran 9.96.

In Atlanta in four years time he was again to take home the same two silvers, he is still not only Namibia's first but only Olympic medalist.

72 Years of Hurt

It is hard to believe looking at the state of GB Cycling today that since 1920 when Thomas Lance and Harry Ryan took gold in the tandem the National Anthem had not been played at an Olympic velodrome. But in 1992 it was ready to sound again and in what a dominant performance.

The Final capture
In the individual pursuit there was the German world Champion Jens Lehmann against the man on the Lotus designed bike GB's Chris Boardman. In the qualifying round Boardman had set the World Record with 4:27.357 almost three seconds faster than Lehmann. In the Quarter Final both Lehmann and Boardman overtook their opponents with Lehmann just behind that world record pace and Boardman a further 3 seconds faster. In the semi-final Lehmann was faster recording a time of 4:27.230 quicker than the world record set in the qualifying, but Boardman was doing enough to beat his Australian opponent by over 3 seconds.

In the final Boardman started out fast taking a third of a second out of Lehmann on each of the first three laps but he kept closing it down relentlessly closing in all the time on the German until just as the German was getting to his start position with a lap to go, the almost unheard of happened in an Olympic final for the pursuit, the silver medalist was captured.

Britiain may not have won gold at the next Olympics but it wouldn't be 72 years before they won another cycling gold. Only 8 before Jason Queally won the 1km time trial in Sydeny,  then another pursuit title for Bradley Wiggins and 1km time trial for Chris Hoy in Athens, before taking 8 in Beijing with only Mark Cavndish of the track team returning home without any medal.

Bizarre Olympic Fact Chris Boardman was not the first British Gold medalist with that name. Christopher Boardman was a member of the winning crew in the 6m sailing at the 1936 Games.

Hosts splash to first swimming gold

Rather surprising for a nation with so many wonderful beaches Spain had never managed to win a gold in the pool before. However, with King Juan Carlos in place for his continual mission to watch home gold on the 28 July there was a World Champion and record holder who was determined to make amends for that. 

Although born and raised in the Florida, USA, he father had moved from Zaragoza to study medicine,  Michael López-Zubero was not the first of his siblings to represent Spain in the Olympics. His elder brother David had taken bronze in the 100m butterfly in Moscow in 1980.

He was world champion at the 200m backstroke and had taken bronze in the 100m the year before in Perth and was looking to do at least as well in his 'home' Games. His main rivals were his fellow Europeans, Italy's Stafano Battistelli and Russian Vladimir Slekov who had taken silver and bronze at the worlds 18 months previously. Fortunately His Majesty did not leave his seat under the sun at the Piscines Bernat Picornell disappointed as it was another of Spain's 13 golds.

Spain were hoping for more 2 days later when he returned to the pool for the 100m backstroke final, but like his compatriot Sergi Lopes in the 200m breaststroke he would have to settle for fourth place just outside the medals.

Her roll to gold

Tanni Grey as she was then had been to her first Paralympics four years previously when she took a sole bronze in the 400m to start her Olympic medal collection. But in 1992 she dominated.

She took gold in 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m, a feat she would duplicate in 2000, as well as helping GB to silver in the 4x100m.

In total Tanni won 11 Paralympic gold, 4 silver and one bronze between 1988 and 2004.  She also would hold over 30 world records and win the London Marathon six times, though she never competed at this distance in the Paralympics.

She is now a member of the BBC's athletics commentary team not confined to Paralympic sport as well as being a member of the House of Lords.

Two boxers, two traditions, two second chances

 Earlier this month when the Torch relay took a morning excursion out of the UK to head to double there was this rather touching scene at the border.

Twenty years on it was the two boxers who won all of Ireland's medals from these Games. Ireland had not won a gold since the 1956 Games and Ron Delany's shock gold in the 1500m: Delany was also to carry the Torch that day in Dublin.

So on 9 August having both won through to their finals in the Olympic boxing ring Ireland were looking at two chances to return to winning ways.

First up was Wayne McCullough (on the left in the picture) this was his second Games for the Shankhill lad from that Protestant heartland. At 18 in Seoul he had been the baby of the team, but he was asked to carry the Irish Tricolour in the opening ceremony, something he did with pride. He lost to Canadian Scott Olson in the 3rd round of those Games.

He was back in 1992 at bantamweight having taking Commonwealth Gold at flyweight in 1990. He was up against the Cuban Joel Casamayor in the final (who would later defect to the USA on the eve of the 1996 Games). He lost 16-8 on points, but it was Ireland's first medal of those Games, know there was one more to come.

Michael Carruth was a catholic from Dublin and a soldier in the Irish Army, but like McCullough he was back after being beaten in the third round in Seoul. He too faced a Cuban for his final the taller Juan Hérnandez Sierra. A couple of hours after McCullough's defeat he entered the same ring for the welterweight final. A couple of times during the fight the referee talked to Carruth about holding before having a warning and losing three points in the second round. But it was all square at the end of the second 8 a piece going into the final round.

To increasing cheers of Ireland, Ireland however Carruth started to dominate from the start of the third as the Cuban looked more and more tired. The Irish man ended up taking the bout 13-10. Ireland had won their first gold in 36 years, their first ever in boxing. On the day he returned pubs were selling pints at 1956 prices to celebrate. You're not sure as a result whether the Irish were hoping to wait so long for more gold or not but indeed they wouldn't, but more of that later.
Triple gold in the pool

 While Tanni Grey was taking four golds on the Barcelona Track in the pool another British Paralympian was sweeping up too.

Peter Hull has been born without legs and arms that ended at the elbow. But that didn't deter him he started swimming at 5 and won his first competition at 9.  In Seoul he had been in the worst possible spot 4th a total of four time.

But Barcelona was his time to shine. He won the 50m freestyle and backstroke as well as the 100m Freestyle. His times were all World Records

Asia not totally dominant at the table

Table Tennis had only been introduced at the previous Games in Seoul. But all but one of the finalists came from either China or Korea. In 1992 There was a stronger European breakthrough and actually both the men's finalists were from Europe. Jan-Ove Waldner of Sweden who had beaten South Korea's Taek Soo Kim in the semi finals and Jean-Philippe Gaitien of France who had beaten China's Ma Wenge at the same stage.

Waldner was one of the few who had been challenging Eastern Supremecy in the sport since he first came unto the circuit 10 years earlier at 16. In deed he had been in the last three world championship singles finals winning gold in 1989, and helping Sweden to three team silver and two gold in the last five.

In the end it was Waldner (pictured) who won. In 2010 he won his 9th Swedish title against Pär Gerell who was born in the same year, 1982, he won his first. It is sign of the respect that he has in the sport as one of those present at the first five Olympic tournaments that he is known in Chinese as 常青树 Chang Qing Shu Evergreen. 

He would win silver in the Olympics in 2000.

Mr and Mrs Badminton

Badminton was new as a full Olympic sport in the 1992 Games but it was dominated by Indonesia, who provided four of the eight finalists including an all Indonesian men's singles, as well as one of ther defeated semi-finalists in the same event. Only Thomas  Steur-Lauridsen in the men's singles broke the Asian domination of the last fours.

However, in that men's final it was Alan Budikusuma who took gold from his fellow country man Ardy Wirinata 15-12 18-14.

But the first final was the women's singles and therefore it was Susi Susanti (pictured) beat South Korea's who was awarded the first Olympic Gold medal in her sport by IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, but there was also the honour of being the first Olympian from Indonesia to hear their national anthem play as they stood atop an Olympic podium and watch their flag being raised.

However, five years later after Susi took bronze in the next Olympics she and Alan got married to become the golden couple of Olympic badminton.

See also my full list of posts about past Olympics

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