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Backgrounder: Olympic Games Barcelona 1992: Boycott-free after 20 years

Xinhua, July 29, 2016 Adjust font size:

On July 25, 1992, the Olympic Torch arrived in Barcelona's Olympic Stadium, in northeast Spain, after traveling across the Mediterranean countries 17 autonomous communities over 39 days. The last Torch bearer, Spain's paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo, lit the cauldron by firing a flaming arrow.

The Olympic Flame burned bright until Aug. 9 after 9,356 athletes (2,704 women) from 169 countries and regions competed in 257 events.

For the first time in 20 years, since the Munich Olympics in 1972, the Games were boycott-free and all International Olympic Committee members competed, with the exception of Afghanistan.

In the years following the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea, the world witnessed important political changes.

Apartheid was abolished in South Africa, allowing the country to participate in the Olympic Games again, for the first time since 1960.

Then there was the fall of the Berlin wall in November 1989 and the reunification of East and West Germany (1990) as well as North and South Yemen (1990). Germany attended the Barcelona Games as one united team for the first time since 1960.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the USSR being divided into 15 separate countries, the independent teams of Estonia and Latvia made their first appearance since 1936 at the 1992 Games. Lithuania also sent its first team since 1928. The other 12 former Soviet republics participated as a "Unified Team," although the winners were honored under the flags of their own republics.

The only controversy concerned the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), which was the subject of United Nations sanctions due to its military aggression against Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina after the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia separated.

FRY was eventually banned from taking part in team sports, but individual Yugoslav athletes were allowed to compete as "independent Olympic participants." Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina participated for the first time as independent nations.

In Barcelona, men's basketball opened its doors to all professional players so the United States sent a "Dream Team" of superstars including Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Needless to say they dominated the event and took home the gold with an average of 117 points in eight games.

Another impressive performer was gymnast Vitaly Scherbo, from the "Unified Team." She won six gold medals, four of which she won in one day. This became a record in the history of the Olympic discipline.

Ethiopia's Derartu Tulu darted into the lead in the final lap of the 10,000 meters, making her the first female African athlete to win an Olympic medal. Before starting her victory lap, she waited at the finish line for her opponent Elana Meyer, a white South African. The two women ran the victory lap together hand-in-hand, symbolizing hope for a new Africa.

In swimming, young Krisztina Egerszegi from Hungary, who was already a gold medalist in the 200 meters backstroke and silver medalist in the 100 meters backstroke at the Seoul 1988 Olympics, defeated all her opponents not only in the two aforementioned races but also in the 400 meters medley.

In terms of the Games' host, Spain performed well in relation to their previous sporting history and managed to finish in sixth place in the medal table. Swimmer Martin Lopez Zubero won Spain's first ever gold medal in an Olympic swimming event. He took home gold for the 200 meters backstroke.

Also, the host delegation's men's soccer team won the title after missing their opportunity to win a soccer title at home 10 years before, during the World Cup 1982.

Cuba, who were absent from the previous two editions, won 14 gold medals, seven of them in boxing. The Caribbean country also won the men's baseball, a very popular sport in Cuba. Baseball was included as an official Olympic sport for the first time in Barcelona after appearing as an exhibition or demonstration sport at six Olympic Games.

China's sporting delegation, made up of 128 men and 133 women, finished fourth in the medal table with 16 gold, 22 silver and 16 bronze medals. This success marked new sporting progress for the Asian country in many events.

For example, in swimming, the Chinese swimmers struggled to be placed in the top eight at the 1988 Games in Seoul but, in Barcelona they took home four gold medals.

Zhuang Yong won gold for his country in the 100 meters freestyle with a time of 54.64 second, a new Olympic record, while Qian Hong also won the 100 meters butterfly event in 58.62 seconds. Lin Li became a world record holder in the 200 meters women's individual medley with a time of two minutes, 11 seconds and 65 milliseconds and Yang Wenyi bettered her own world record in the 50 meters freestyle. With a time of 24.79 seconds, she was the first woman in history to go under the 25-seconds barrier in the event.

China also took home another three gold medals in diving with 13-year-old Fu Mingxia in the 10 meter platform and Gao Min in the three meters springboard, both in the women's category, and Sun Shuwei in the men's 10 meter platform.

In table tennis a traditional sport in China, the winners of the men and women's doubles and the individual women's categories were Wang Tao/Lu Lin, Deng Yaping/Qiao Hong and Deng Yaping, respectively.

The Chinese athletes also managed to win gold medals in shooting, gymnastics, march and judo while they also won silver medals in athletics, weightlifting, badminton and women's basketball.



Unified Team 45 38 29 112

U.S. 37 34 47 108

Germany 33 21 28 82

China 16 22 16 54

Cuba 14 6 11 31

Spain 13 7 2 22

South Korea 12 5 12 29

Hungary 11 12 7 30

France 8 5 16 29

Australia 7 9 11 27 Enditem