Suvarna Garge (Editor)

1988 Summer Olympics

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Host city
237 in 23 sports

Nations participating

Opening ceremony
September 17

1988 Summer Olympics

Harmony and Progress (Korean: 화합과 전진, Hwahabgwa Jeonjin)

Athletes participating
8,391 (6,197 men, 2,194 women)

The 1988 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIV Olympiad (Hangul서울 하계 올림픽; Hanja: 서울 夏季 올림픽; RR: Seoul Hagye Ollimpik), were an international multi-sport event celebrated from 17 September to 2 October 1988 in Seoul, South Korea. They were the second summer Olympic Games to be held in Asia and the first since the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan.


In the Seoul Games, 159 nations were represented by a total of 8,391 athletes: 6,197 men and 2,194 women. 263 events were held and 27,221 volunteers helped to prepare the Olympics. 11,331 media (4,978 written press and 6,353 broadcasters) showed the Games all over the world.

These were the last Olympic Games for two of the world's "dominating" sport powers, the Soviet Union and East Germany, as both ceased to exist before the next Olympic Games.

North Korea, still officially at war with South Korea, and its allies, Albania (who declared an Olympic-record fourth consecutive boycott), Ethiopia, Cuba, Madagascar, and Seychelles boycotted the games. Nicaragua boycotted the games because of the U.S. military support to the Contra rebels. However, the much larger boycotts seen in the previous three Summer Olympics were avoided, resulting in the largest ever number of participating nations during the Cold War era.

Host city selection

Seoul was chosen to host the Summer Games through a vote held on 30 September 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-Baden, West Germany.

After the Olympics were awarded, Seoul also received the opportunity to stage the 10th Asian Games in 1986, using them to test its preparation for the Olympics.


  • Soviet Vladimir Artemov won four gold medals in gymnastics. Daniela Silivaş of Romania won three and equalled compatriot Nadia Comăneci's record of seven Perfect 10s in one Olympic Games.
  • After having demolished the world record in the 100 m dash at the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis, U.S. sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner set an Olympic record (10.62) in the 100-metre dash and a still-standing world record (21.34) in the 200-metre dash to capture gold medals in both events. To these medals, she added a gold in the 4×100 relay and a silver in the 4×400. Just after the Games, she announced her retirement.
  • Canadian Ben Johnson won the 100 m final with a new world record, but was disqualified after he tested positive for stanozolol. Johnson has since claimed that his positive test was the result of sabotage.
  • In the Women's Artistic Gymnastics Team All-Around Competition, the US women's team was penalized with a deduction of five tenths of a point from their team score by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) after the compulsory round due to their Olympic team alternate Rhonda Faehn appearing on the podium for the uneven bars during the duration of Kelly Garrison-Steve's compulsory uneven bars routine, despite not competing, having been caught by the East German judge, Ellen Berger. The US finishes in fourth place after the completion of the optional rounds with a combined score of 390.575, three tenths of a point behind the German Democratic Republic. This still remains controversial in the sport of gymnastics, as the US performed better than the East German team and they would have taken the bronze medal in the team competition had they not been penalized or had an inquiry accepted to receive the points back. If they had medaled, it would have also been their first gymnastics medal in the team competition (men or women) and their first gymnastics medal overall on the women's side in a fully attended Olympics (disregarding the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics which were boycotted by the Soviet Union and East Germany) had the controversy not been visited in the first place.
  • Following the controversy involving the US women's team in artistic gymnastics, American gymnast Phoebe Mills won an individual bronze medal on the balance beam, shared with Romania's Gabriela Potorac, making history as the first medal (team or individual) ever won by an American woman in artistic gymnastics at a fully attended games (disregarding 1984).
  • The USSR (Soviet Union) won their final team gold medals in artistic gymnastics on both the men's and women's sides with scores of 593.350 and 395.475 respectively. The men's team was led by Vladimir Artemov, while Elena Shushunova lead the women's team.
  • 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 the Pierre de Coubertin medal honoring his bravery and sacrifice.
  • U.S. diver Greg Louganis won 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 HIV cannot survive in open water, no other divers were ever in danger.
  • Christa Luding-Rothenburger of East Germany became the first (and only) athlete to win Olympic medals at the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics in the same year. She added a cycling silver to the speed skating gold she won earlier in the Winter Olympics of that year in Calgary.
  • Anthony Nesty of Suriname won 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 Biondi's attempt of breaking Mark Spitz' record seven golds in one Olympic event); he was the first black person to win an individual swimming gold.
  • Swimmer Kristin Otto of East Germany won six gold medals. Other multi-medalists in the pool were Matt Biondi (five) and Janet Evans (three).
  • Swedish fencer Kerstin Palm became the first woman to take part in seven Olympics.
  • In swimming, Mel Stewart of the U.S. was the favorite to win the men's 200 m butterfly final but came in 5th.
  • Mark Todd of New Zealand won 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 were demonstration sports. The opening ceremony featured a mass demonstration of taekwondo with hundreds of adults and children performing moves in unison.
  • This was the last time the U.S. was represented by a basketball team that didn't feature NBA players; the team won the bronze medal after being defeated by the Soviet Union which went on to win the gold medal.
  • For the first time in history, all the dressage events were won by women.
  • Women's judo was held for the first time, as a demonstration sport.
  • Bowling was held as a demonstration sport, with Kwon Jong Yul of South Korea and Arianne Cerdeña from the Philippines winning the men's and women's gold medals, respectively.
  • Table tennis was introduced at the Olympics, with China and South Korea both winning two titles.
  • Tennis returned to the Olympics after a 64-year absence, and Steffi Graf added to her four Grand Slam victories in the year by also winning the Olympic title, beating Gabriela Sabatini in the final.
  • Two Bulgarian weightlifters were stripped of their gold medals after failing doping tests, and the team withdrew after this event.
  • Controversies occurred involving boxers including a gold medal being awarded to a Korean light-middleweight after having apparently been defeated by American boxer Roy Jones, Jr and an assault on a New Zealand referee by Korean officials after the referee cautioned a Korean bantamweight.
  • Soviet weightlifter Yury Zakharevich won the men's heavyweight (up to 110 kg class) with a 210 kg snatch and 245 kg clean and jerk for a 455 kg total. Zakhareivich had dislocated his elbow in 1983 attempting a world record and had it rebuilt with synthetic tendons.
  • Indonesia gained its first medal in Olympic history when the women's team won a silver medal in archery.
  • Live doves were released during the opening ceremony as a symbol of world peace, but a number of the doves were burned alive or suffered major trauma 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 Ceremony in 1996.

    These were also the last Summer Olympic Games to hold the Opening Ceremony during the daytime. The opening ceremony featured a skydiving team descending over the stadium and forming the five-colored Olympic Rings, as well as 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 the 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 Korea, and showcase the Korean economic miracle to the world community. South Korea was awarded the bid on 30 September 1981, becoming the 20th nation (16th in the Summer Olympics), the second Asian nation (following Japan in the 1964 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 South 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 Soviet Union and with China.

    In utilizing media events theory, Larson and Park investigated the 1988 Seoul Olympics as a form of political communication. They revealed the significance of South Korea's military government throughout the period of the olympic bid and preparation, followed by the many advantages of the Seoul Olympics: rapid economic modernization, social mobilization, the legitimization of the military dictatorship, etc.

    As political demonstrations emerged in June 1987, the possibility of jeopardizing hosting the Olympic Games contributed to the 29 June 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.

    1988 Summer Olympics boycott

    In preparation for the 1988 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee worked to prevent another Olympic boycott by the Eastern Bloc as had happened at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. This was made more difficult by the lack of diplomatic relations between South Korea and socialist countries. This prompted action by the IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was committed to the participation of these countries. Thus, at the Assembly of National Olympic Committees in Mexico City in November 1984, the "Mexico Declaration" [1] was adopted; by it, the participants agreed to include the host of the Olympic Games in 1988. The agreement of the Soviet Union brought a pledge of equal participation. However, various socialist National Olympic Committees reacted with incomprehension. After the Los Angeles games, East Germany had already decided to participate again in Seoul. The IOC also decided that it would send invitations to the 1988 Games itself and did not leave this task to the organizing committee as had been done before. Despite these developments, behind the scenes, the IOC did consider relocating the Games and explored the suitability of Munich as an alternative.

    Another point of conflict was the involvement of North Korea in hosting the Games, something that had been encouraged by Cuban president Fidel Castro, who called for North Korea to be considered joint host of the Games. As a result, on 8 and 9 January 1986 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC President chaired a meeting of the North and South Korean Olympic Committees. North Korea demanded that eleven of the 23 Olympic sports be carried out on its territory, and also demanded special opening and closing ceremonies. It wanted a joint organizing committee and a united team. The negotiations were continued into another meeting, but were not successful. The IOC did not meet the demands of North Korea and only about half of the desired sporting events were offered to the North. So the focus thereafter was solely on Seoul and South Korea.

    North Korea boycotted the Games after the failed negotiations and was supported by Cuba, Nicaragua and Ethiopia. Albania and the Seychelles also did not attend, but, in order to avoid sanctions by the IOC, did not call their absence a boycott. The participation of Madagascar had been expected, and their team was expected at the opening ceremony of 160 nations. However, the country joined the North Korean boycott.

    Official theme song

    In 1988, the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee (SLOOC) decided to produce and distribute an official song of the Seoul Games to publicize the Games to all the IOC member nations, encouraging their participation in the festival and consolidating the harmony and friendship of the entire world citizens through the song. The song "Hand in Hand" was written by Italian composer Giorgio Moroder and American songwriter Tom Whitlock, and performed by singing group Koreana. "Hand in Hand" topped popular songs in 17 countries including Sweden, Federal Rep. Of Germany, the Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Japan and Hong Kong and was listed among the top 10s of the popular songs in more than 30 countries.


  • Seoul Sports Complex venues
  • Seoul Olympic Stadium² – opening/closing ceremonies, athletics, equestrian (jumping individual final), football (final)
  • Jamsil Indoor Swimming Pool² – diving, modern pentathlon (swimming), synchronized swimming, swimming, water polo
  • Jamsil Gymnasium² – basketball, volleyball (final)
  • Jamsil Students' Gymnasium² – boxing
  • Jamsil Baseball Stadium² – baseball (demonstration)
  • Olympic Park venues
  • Olympic Velodrome¹ – cycling (track)
  • Olympic Weightlifting Gymnasium¹ – weightlifting
  • Olympic Fencing Gymnasium¹ – fencing, modern pentathlon (fencing)
  • Olympic Gymnastics Hall¹ – gymnastics
  • Olympic Tennis Center¹ – tennis
  • Mongchon Tosong¹ – modern pentathlon (running)
  • Other venues in metropolitan Seoul
  • Seoul Equestrian Park– equestrian (all but jumping individual final), modern pentathlon (riding)
  • Han River Regatta Course/Canoeing Site Course¹ – canoeing, rowing
  • Saemaul Sports Hall¹ – volleyball preliminaries
  • Hanyang University Gymnasium¹ – volleyball preliminaries
  • Changchung Gymnasium² – judo, taekwondo (demonstration)
  • Seoul National University Gymnasium – badminton (demonstration), table tennis
  • Royal Bowling Center² – bowling (demonstration)
  • Dongdaemun Stadium² – football preliminaries
  • Hwarang Archery Field², Nowon-gu – archery
  • Taereung International Shooting Range², Taenung – modern pentathlon (shooting), shooting
  • Streets of Seoul – athletics (20 km/ 50 km walk, marathon)
  • Jangchung Gymnasium – taekwondo (demonstration), judo
  • Venues outside Seoul
  • Sangmu Gymnasium¹, Seongnam – wrestling
  • Daejeon Stadium², Daejeon – football preliminaries
  • Daegu Stadium², Daegu – football preliminaries
  • Busan Stadium², Busan – football preliminaries
  • Gwangju Stadium², Gwangju – football preliminaries
  • Suwon Gymnasium¹, Suwon – handball
  • Seongnam Stadium², Seongnam – field hockey
  • Busan Yachting Center¹, Busan – sailing
  • Tongillo Road Course – cycling (individual road race, road team time trial)
  • ¹ New facilities constructed in preparation for the Olympic Games. ² Existing facilities modified or refurbished in preparation for the Olympic Games.


    According to The Oxford Olympics Study data are not available to establish the cost of the Seoul 1988 Summer Olympics. Average cost for Summer Games since 1960, for which data are available, is USD 5.2 billion.

    Medals awarded

    The 1988 Summer Olympic programme featured 237 events in the following 23 sports:

    Demonstration sports

    These were the demonstration sports in the games:

  • Badminton ()
  • Baseball ()
  • Bowling ()
  • Judo ()
  • Taekwondo ()
  • Wheelchair racing ()
  • Calendar

    All times are local (UTC+10)

    Participating National Olympic Committees

    Athletes from 159 nations competed at the Seoul Games. Aruba, American Samoa, Brunei, Cook Islands, Maldives, Vanuatu, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and South Yemen made their first Olympic appearance at these Games. Guam made their first Summer Olympic appearance at these games having participated in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

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

  •  Brunei 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.
  • When the team from the Dominican Republic marched in during the Parade of Nations, the superimposed map erroneously showed the location of Cuba.
  • Medal count

    These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1988 Games.

      *   Host nation (South Korea)


    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 호돌이 Hodori was chosen from 2,295 suggestions sent in by the public. It is a compound of ho, the Sino-Korean bound morpheme for "tiger" (appearing also in the usual word 호랑이 horangi for "tiger"), and 돌이 dori, a diminutive for "boys".

    Broadcast rights

    The games were covered by the following broadcasters:


    1988 Summer Olympics Wikipedia