For the first time in twelve years, the Olympics were again hosting all the leading sports nations with the exception of Cuba and Ethiopia. The boycotts of Moscow (1980) and Los Angeles (1984) were not repeated, mostly due to a general reduction of tensions in global politics. The Olympic Games in South Korea again brought together athletes from the USA and the USSR after eight years. Slovenian athletes appeared at the Olympics under the Yugoslavian flag for the last time.
Time and Place: Seoul (South Korea); 17 September – 2 October 1988
Other candidates: Nagoya
Participation: 159 countries, 8391 athletes
Number of sports: 25 sports, 237 events
Fire lit by: Chong Son-Man, Kim Won-Tak and Son Mi-Yong (athletes)
Games opened by: Roh Tae-woo (President of South Korea)
Olympic oath: Hur Jae (basketball), Son Mi-Na (handball)
Trivia from the Seoul 1988 Summer Olympic Games
Athletes came to the stadium during the Seoul Opening Ceremony in their national attires.
For the first time since the 1964 Tokio Olympic Games in Japan, the best athletes of the world again assembled on Asian ground. The tensions that have become a rather tradition part of Olympic events were this time supplied by the hatred between South and North Korea. The latter did not send its competitors to Olympic venues. All the participants were impressed by the hospitality of the local people who, along with excellent organization, assured a great sports festival. The only mark on the otherwise excellent event was the doping scandal in the men's 100 m run.
Canadian Ben Johnson and American Carl Lewis provided the greatest treat of the Games in the 100 meter sprint. The race was won by the Canadian with the exceptional time of 9.79. Soon afterwards he was found guilty of using steroids, so he eventually lost his gold. It was awarded to Lewis who also came second in the 200 meter sprint and won the gold in the 4x100 m relay.
Nevertheless, the Americans were not the strongest force in the Olympics since the USSR (55 medals) and the GDR (37 medals) proved their power over the western countries. In track and field the competition was marked by the success of the Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergei Bubka, who was the first to vault over six meters and became the Olympic champion, and the legendary Florence Griffith – Joyner. The unforgattable Flo-Jo, who unexpectedly died in September of 1998, won in 100 and 200 meter runs and won two further gold medals in 4x100 m and 4x400 m relays.
The most persistant collectors of precious metal were the exceptional German swimmer Kristin Otto, who collected six medals and swimmer Matt Biondi, who won five gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
Slovenians and the 1988 Summer Olympics
The Seoul Olympics were the final appearance of Slovenian athletes under the flag of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was represented in South Korea by 24 athletes (including three female athletes) from Slovenia. The most excitement was generated, as before in Los Angeles, by competitors in group sports.
One of the exceptional generation of basketball players who went on to win the titles of European and World champions before the state collapsed was Jure Zdovc. The defensive player from Slovenske Konjice and his team, led by coach Dušan Ivković, won the silver medal. The achievement of the male team was repeated by the women. Silver was won by club Ježica players Polona Dornik and Stojana Vangelovska.
The Yugoslavian men's handball team was also successful. The "Blues" won third place after the USSR and the South Korean team. Members of the bronze team were goalkeeper Rolando Pušnik, who thus won his second Olympic medal, and Iztok Puc. The latter played for the Croatian team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and for the Slovenian team four years later in Sydney.
The 1988 Games forecast the dream period of Slovenian rowing which brought so much joy in the initial decade of independent Slovenian Olympism. In Seul, the bronze medal in coxless double sculls was won by Sadik Mujkič and Bojan Prešeren. Another excellent eight place finish was achieved by Sašo Mirjanič and Milan Janša with Roman Ambrožič as coxswain.