- Participating nations: 159
- Number of athletes: 8,465 (6,279 men - 2,186 women)
- Time: September 17 - October 2
- Number of events: 237
- Swedish medals: 4 silver, 7 bronze
That Seoul was elected as host of the Olympic Games in 1988 was sensational. At the 1980 IOC session in Baden-Baden, West Germany, Nagoya was the obvious favorite. But the Nagoya bid was beaten by Seoul by 52-27, a clear victory for the Koreans.
The decision was a bit controversial in many ways. The conflict between North and South Korea was, and still is, reason for concern. What´s more, South Korea wasn´t known as a democratic nation and the students´ movement threatened to start riots during the Games.
The conflict between the divided nations was the main thread of everything that happened before the Games. In 1985, North Korea stated that they would ask the Eastern European countries to join them in a boycott if the North Korean capital Pyongyang wasn´t given half of the Olympic events.
The IOC suggested a compromise which meant that five of the sports could have their competitions in Pyongyang. The suggestion was accepted by South Korea and, in principle, by North Korea.
A little over a year before the opening ceremony, violent student demonstration took place in Seoul. The students´ demands for democracy and free elections were supported by the people, and a new constitution was passed. At the end of 1987, Roh Tae Woo was elected president.
A little over a month before the opening ceremony, the IOC pleaded with the North Koreans to accept the responsibility of hosting the five sports they had been offered. Pyongyang rejected the proposal.
When the Games were opened, 159 nations had gathered. A new record, again. Only seven of the member states of the IOC were absent. North Korea´s boycott action wasn´t too popular, the only countries who were missing were Cuba, Albania, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, North Korea and the Seychelles.
Swedish DefeatAs usual, the IOC held a congress in connection with the Games. This time the election of a host city for the 1994 Winter Games was on the agenda. Östersund was one of four candidate cities.
As we know, Östersund lost the final vote against Lillehammer by 39-45 and Sweden could not have been given a worse start on the Olympic adventure in Seoul.
Östersund didn´t take first price and, when summing up the Swedish results in Seoul, we can only conclude that neither did the Swedish team. That hadn´t happened since 1896 in Athens, when Sweden was only represented by one athlete, and 1904 in St Louis, when there was no Swedish team at all.
But talking about a Swedish fiasco would really be overdoing it. The competition had increased compared to earlier Games and Sweden did, after all, end up taking 20th place overall in competition with 158 other countries.
But sure, something was missing, something that only an Olympic gold medal can give. And there were actually a few gold caliber candidates on the Swedish team.
People had high expectations for, among others, the tennis player Stefan Edberg in both the single and the double tournament, and they were also hoping that Patrik Sjöberg would be able to compete for the gold medal in the high jump.
But Sweden took four silver, seven bronze and no gold medals in Seoul.
Reliable SkanåkerAs usual, the shooting marked the beginning of the Games and the reliable Ragnar Skanåker was one of the contestants. At this point, no one wanted to miss watching Skanåker shoot. And Skanåker didn´t disappoint anyone in his fifth straight Olympic Games. He was in fourth place before the final shooting round, but managed to advance and take the silver medal, an excellent achievement by the 54-year-old.
The yachting - usually a “given" deliverer of Swedish medals, contributed “only" one silver medal this time. It went to Marit Söderström and Birgitta Bengtsson in the new women´s 470 class. But they didn´t quite live up to the expectations, they had become World Champions the same year. But problems with the boat and bad judgements in the second and third stages ruined all chances of taking the gold medal. If you look at it that way, silver isn´t too bad.
The swimmer Anders Holmertz was able to beat world stars like Matt Biondi, from the United States, and Michael Gross, from West Germany, but that was still only good enough for silver in the 200 m freestyle. The Australian Duncan Armstrong came up like a shot and won on the world record-breaking time of 1.47.25. Holmertz had been beaten by about half a second. On the double distance, the Swede kept dreaming of medals, but his fast opening drained him and he came in last place in the final.
The First Time in 36 Years The Swedish boxing team was the most successful and could go home with two medals - one silver and one bronze. The silver medallist George Cramne (later Scott) almost created boxing hysteria in Sweden before his final match in the 60 kg class against Andreas Zülow of East Germany. Sweden had an Olympic boxing finalist for the first time in 36 years. But the East German was far superior to Cramne in the final, and he had to settle for a silver medal after a great Olympic performance.
In the light welterweight, Lasse Myrberg surprised everyone by getting to the semi-final where he lost against future silver medallist Grahame Cheney, Australia.
Tomas Johansson was back in the heavyweight wrestling. He had been expelled and barred after it had been revealed, during the Games in Los Angeles, that he had been using forbidden substances. He had taken the gold medal in the World Championships, and this time he took the bronze. This was the result of having to wrestle the enormous Alexandr Karelin, from the Soviet Union, in the first round. Tomas, of course, lost against the “Hulk" and no longer had the chance of taking the gold. But he took a bronze medal instead, and finally made his Olympic comeback.
Table tennis was on the program for the first time, and the Swedes had hopes for this event. The players were aiming for a silver, at least. But the Asians dominated and of all the final matches, only one featured any European players - the men´s double final.
But Erik Lindh saved the Swedish honor and took the bronze medal in the men´s single competition.
Bronze TennisTennis made its comeback in the Olympics. It had been an exhibition sport in Los Angeles in 1984, that time Stefan Edberg had won the single´s tournament. This time people were hoping for a “real" Swedish tennis gold.
Everything went according to plan, and on his way to the semi-final, Stefan did not lose a single set. In the semi-final, which was considered the “moral final", Stefan was up against Miroslav Mecir, Czechoslovakia. After a tough five-set match, Mecir was able to win and get his revenge for two lost games earlier in the season, in Wimbledon and in the Davis Cup.
Edberg took another bronze medal in the double tournament together with Anders Järryd.
In the cycling team pursuit, the Swedish quartet, Anders Jarl, Björn Johansson, Jan Karlsson and Michael Lafis, surprised everyone and took the bronze medal. The Swedes had started early and were only in eighth place after three quarters of the race. But they had portioned out their energy perfectly along the 10-kilometer long race and moved up to the bronze medal position after beating favorites such as Italy and the Soviet Union. The silver and gold medals went to Poland and East Germany respectively, and the distance between these two teams and the Swedish team was quite large. That can´t be said for the distance between the Swedes and the French, who came in fourth place. The Swedes had a margin of only two short seconds.
So CloseIn the athletics arena, Patrik Sjöberg took a shared bronze medal. This was were the Swedish track and field athletes were going to prove themselves after having received a generous sponsor contract, which gave them excellent financial conditions, measured by Swedish standards. But money alone did not suffice.
Sjöberg was very close to taking a medal of a more precious kind when he, in his first attempt on 2.38, touched the bar, which after hesitating for a few moments decided to fall down. The gold went instead to the Russian Gennadij Avdejenko who cleared 2.38 in his second attempt.
As for the team sports, Sweden participated in the football tournament for the first time since 1948. Sweden lost the quarter final against Italy, in sudden death, and ended up in fifth place. So did the Swedish men´s handball team whereas the volleyball team took seventh place.
The foil fencer Kerstin Palm ended her Olympic career in Seoul, she came in 29th place. That may not be much to brag about, but Palm, aged 42, competed in her seventh straight Olympic Games. Her career started in 1964 in Tokyo, her best result, fifth place, came in 1968 in Mexico City.
The Johnson ScandalFrom an international perspective, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was the one who grabbed most of the attention. He was first celebrated for his incredible victory against Carl Lewis in the 100 m. The American noted his best time ever, 9.92, but he was crushed by Johnson who ran the distance in unbelievable 9.79 seconds. But three days later the bomb burst. Johnson had been taking steroids. There had been traces of an anabolic steroid in his urine sample after the final. The scandal was complete, and the scenes which took place at the airport, as Johnson was being “smuggled" out of the country, were chaotic.
Many thought that this would be the end of sports, and it´s true that a “Doomsday" atmosphere surrounded the Games after Johnson´s positive result had been revealed. The athletics medallists were natural targets for more rumors.
This was especially true for the 29-year-old American Florence Griffith-Joyner. “Flo-Jo" broke the world record on the 200 m and won the gold medals on the 100 m and the short relay as well, she also took a silver medal in the long relay. Her superiority made her suspicious, and no matter how many times she promised that she was “clean" it was still hard for her to wipe off all the suspicions. Her superiority was too great for the media, especially, to believe her.
A few other notes from the athletics track is that Said Aouita, Morocco, who had dominated middle-distance running, only took one medal - a bronze on the 800 m. He was injured on the 1,500 m and didn´t run the 5,000 m in order to focus on the shorter distances.
Close Call for BubkaPole vault phenomenon Sergej Bubka, from the Soviet Union, was in deep trouble in the final. In severe wind conditions Bubka cleared 5.70 and then decided to wait for the 5.90 level. If he cleared that height, he´d take the gold, if he didn´t, he wouldn´t make it onto the winners´ stand. Bubka showed his nerves of steel and cleared 5.90 in his third and final attempt.
Carl Lewis took gold in the long jump after a spectacular series, his longest jump was 8.72 meters. Bob Beamon´s world record of 8.90 no longer looked unbeatable!
As usual, the swimming events had their share of stars. Names like Kristin Otto, East Germany and Americans Matt Biondi and diver Greg Louganis secured their places in Olympic history.
Otto took six gold medals, four in the individual and two in the relays. Biondi took five gold medals, one silver and one bronze, whereas Louganis took gold medals in both the high dive and in the springboard diving. He became the first person to do so in two straight Olympic Games. The springboard event had its share of drama when Louganis missed one of his jumps and hit the back of his head on the board. He managed to overcome the fear, despite the deep wound in his head, and take the gold in the final.