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The 1988 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event celebrated in 1988 in Seoulmarker, South Koreamarker. They were the second summer Olympic Games to be held in Asia and the first since the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyomarker, Japanmarker. They were also the fourth Olympic Games to be held in Autumn; the Games were not held in Autumn again until the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydneymarker, Australia.

In the Seoul Games, 160 nations were represented by a total of 8391 athletes: 6197 men and 2194 women. 237 events were held. 27221 volunteers helped to prepare the Olympics. 11331 media (4978 written press and 6353 broadcasters) showed the Games all over the world.

These were the last Olympic Games for two World's "dominating" sport powers, and both the Soviet Unionmarker and East Germanymarker ceased to exist before the next Olympic Games.

North Koreamarker, still officially at war with South Korea, boycotted the event and was joined by Albaniamarker, Cubamarker, Ethiopiamarker, Madagascarmarker, Nicaraguamarker, and Seychellesmarker. However, the much larger boycotts seen in the previous three summer Olympics were avoided, resulting in the largest ever number of participating nations to that date.

Host city selection

Seoul was chosen to host the Summer Games in a vote held on September 30, 1981, finishing ahead of the Japanese city of Nagoya.

Below was the vote count that occurred at the 84th IOC Session and 11th Olympic Congress in Baden-Badenmarker, West Germanymarker. The information comes from the International Olympic Committee Vote History web page.

1988 Summer Olympics Bidding Results
City Round 1
Seoulmarker 52
Nagoya 27


Athletes stand by the ceremonial torch of the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Johnson winning the 100m final.
Fireworks at the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.
  • Sovietmarker Vladimir Artemov wins four gold medals in gymnastics. Daniela Silivaş of Romaniamarker wins three.
  • Fresh off a demolition of the world record in the 100m at the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis, USmarker sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner sets a still-standing Olympic Record (10.62) in the 100 meter dash and a still-standing world record (21.34) in the 200 meter dash to capture gold in both events. She adds a gold medal in the 4x100 relay and a silver in the 4x400. Just after the Games, she would announce her retirement.
  • Canadianmarker Ben Johnson wins the 100 m in a new world record, but is disqualified after he tested positive for stanozolol. In 2004, Johnson accused the American sports authorities of protecting American athletes at the expense of foreign ones. He still claims to this day that Andre "Action" Jackson, "the Mystery Man" put the stanozolol in his food or his drink.
  • American boxer Roy Jones Jr. loses the gold medal to South Koreanmarker fighter Park Si-Hun in a very controversial 3–2 judge's decision. Allegations swirled that Korean officials had fixed the judging. Jones Jr. receives the Val Barker Trophy, an award for the most impressive boxer of the Games. The three judges ruling against Jones were eventually suspended.
  • Lawrence Lemieux, a Canadian sailor in the Finn class was in second place and poised to win a silver medal when he abandoned the race to save an injured competitor. He arrived in 21st place, but was recognized by the IOC with a special award honoring his bravery and sacrifice.
  • US diver Greg Louganis wins back-to-back titles on both diving events, but only after hitting the springboard with his head in the 3 m event final. This became a minor controversy years later when Louganis revealed he knew he was HIV-positive at the time, and did not tell anybody. Since it is now known that HIV cannot survive in open water, no other divers were ever in danger.
  • Christa Luding-Rothenburger of East Germanymarker becomes the first (and only) athlete to win Olympic medals at the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics in the same year. She adds a cycling silver to the speed skating gold she won earlier in the Winter Olympics of that year in Calgarymarker.
  • Anthony Nesty of Surinamemarker wins his country's first Olympic medal by winning the 100 m butterfly, scoring an upset victory over Matt Biondi by .01 of a second (thwarting Biondis attempt of breaking Mark Spitz' record seven golds in one Olympic event); he is the first black person to win individual swimming gold.
  • Swimmer Kristin Otto of East Germany wins six gold medals. Other multi-medalists in the pool are Matt Biondi (five) and Janet Evans (three).
  • Swedishmarker fencer Kerstin Palm becomes the first woman to take part in seven Olympics.
  • In swimming Mel Stewart of the USA is favorite to win the men's 200 m butterfly final but comes in 5th.
  • Mark Todd of New Zealandmarker wins his second consecutive individual gold medal in the three-day event in equestrian on Charisma, only the second time in eventing history that a gold medal has been won consecutively.
  • Baseball and Taekwondo are demonstration sports. The opening ceremony featured a mass demonstration of taekwondo with hundreds of adults and children performing moves in unison.
  • This is the last time the US are represented by a basketball team that doesn't feature NBA stars; the team wins the bronze medal after being defeated by the Soviet Union.
  • For the first time in history all the dressage events are won by women.
  • Women's judo was held for the first time, as a demonstration sport.
  • Table tennis is introduced at the Olympics, with Chinamarker and South Korea both winning two titles.
  • Tennis returns to the Olympics after a 64-year absence, and Steffi Graf adds to her four Grand Slam victories in the year by also winning the Olympic title, beating Gabriela Sabatini in the final.
  • Two Bulgarianmarker weightlifters are stripped of their gold medals after failing doping tests, and the team withdraws after this event.
  • A series of controversies involving Korean boxers included the gold medal being awarded to a Korean light-middleweight after having apparently been defeated by an American boxer and an assault on a New Zealand referee by Korean officials after the referee cautioned a Korean bantamweight.
  • Soviet weightlifter Yuri Zakhareivich wins the mens Heavyweight (up to 110kg class) with a 210kg snatch and 245kg clean and jerk for a 455kg total. Zakhareivich had dislocated his elbow in 1983 attempting a world record and had it rebuilt with synthetic tendons.

Live doves were released during the Opening Ceremony as a symbol of world peace, but a number of the doves were burned alive by the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. As a result of protests following the incident, the last time live doves were released at the Opening Ceremony was in 1992 in Barcelona, hours before the flame was lit. Balloon doves were released in 1994 at the Lillehammer Winter Games and paper doves were used at the Atlanta Ceremonies in 1996.

These were also the last Summer Olympic Games to hold Opening Ceremonies during the daytime due to hot summer weather. The Opening Ceremonies were highlighted by a mass demonstration of taekwondo.

Significance of the 1988 Olympics in South Korea

Hosting the 1988 Olympics presented an opportunity to bring international attention to South Korea. The idea for South Korea to place a bid for 1988 Games emerged during the last days of the Park Chung-hee administration in the late 1970s. After President Park’s assassination in 1979, Chun Doo-hwan, his successor, submitted Korea’s bid to the IOC in September 1981, in hopes that the increased international exposure brought by the Olympics would legitimize his authoritarian regime amidst increasing political pressure for democratization, provide protection from increasing threats from North Koreamarker, and showcase the Korean economic miracle to the world community. South Korea was awarded the bid on September 30, 1981, becoming the 16th nation, the second Asian nation (following Japanmarker in the 1964 Summer Olympics) and the second newly industrialized economy (after Mexicomarker in the 1968 Summer Olympics) to host the Summer Olympics.

In an attempt to follow the model of 1964 Tokyo Olympics as a rite of passage for the Japanese economy and re-integration of Japan in the family of nations in the post-war era, the Korean government hoped to use the Olympics as a “coming-out party” for the newly industrialized Korean economy. The South Korean government hoped the Olympics would symbolize a new legitimacy of Korea in world affairs. The Olympics gave a powerful impetus to the development of South Korea's relations with Eastern Europe, the USSR and with the People's Republic of China.

As political demonstrations emerged in June 1987, the possibility of jeopardizing hosting the Olympic Games contributed to the June 29 declaration which issued President Chun out of power and led to direct elections in December 1987. The desire not to taint the Olympic Games with military dictatorship and riots served as an impetus for Korea’s transition to democracy. Roh Tae-woo served as the transitional president, directly elected by South Koreans in December 1987, during the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

Official Theme Song: Hand in Hand

In 1988, the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee (SLOOC) decided to produce anddistribute an official song of the Seoul Games to publicize the Games to all theIOC member nations, encouraging their participation in the festival andconsolidating the harmony and friendship of the entire world citizens throughthe song. After Italian composer Giorgio Moroder, U.S. songwriter Tom Whitlock,and singing group Koreana were chosen, the title of the song was decided as"Hand in Hand.""Hand in Hand" topped popular songs in 17 countries including Sweden, FederalRep. Of Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Japan and Hong Kong and was listedamong the top 10s of the popular songs in more than 30 countries.


See the fire in the sky

We feel the beating of our hearts together

This is our time to rise above

We know the chance is here to live forever

For all time


Hand in hand we stand

All across the land

We can make this world a better place in which to live

Hand in hand we can

Start to understand

Breaking down the walls that come between us for all time


Everytime we give it all

We feel the flame eternally inside us

Lift our hands up to the sky

The morning calm helps us to live in harmony

For all time

(Refrain X2)


¹ New facilities constructed in preparation for the Olympic Games. ² Existing facilities modified or refurbished in preparation for the Olympic Games.

Medals awarded

See the medal winners, ordered by sport:

Demonstration sports

These were the demonstration sports in the games:

Participating nations

Participants (blue nations had their first entrance).
Number of athletes sent by each nation.
Athletes from 159 nations competed at the Seoul Games. Arubamarker, American Samoamarker, Cook Islandsmarker, Guammarker, Maldivesmarker, Vanuatumarker, Saint Vincent and the Grenadinesmarker, and South Yemen made their first Olympic appearance at these Games.

In the following list, the number in parentheses indicates the number of athletes from each nation that competed in Seoul :

  • also participated in the Opening Ceremonies and Closing Ceremonies, marking its first appearance at the Olympic Games, but its delegation consisted of only one swimming official.

Medal count

These are the top ten nations that won medals at these Games:
1 55 31 46 132
2 37 35 30 102
3 36 31 27 94
4 (Host nation) 12 10 11 33
5 11 14 15 40
6 11 6 6 23
7 10 12 13 35
8 7 11 6 24
9 6 4 6 16
10 6 4 4 14


Hodori, the official mascot of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.
The official mascot for the 1988 Summer Olympic Games was Hodori. It was a stylized tiger designed by Kim Hyun as an amicable Amur Tiger, portraying the friendly and hospitable traditions of the Korean people. Hodori's female version was called Hosuni.

The name Hodori was chosen from 2,295 suggestions sent in by the public. It is a portmanteau of ho, which is a derived word from the Korean word for "tiger" (horangi), and dori, which is a diminutive for "boys" in Korean.

See also


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