Politics, Drugs and the Seoul Olympics

28 June 2014

The 1988 Olympics were held in Seoul, South Korea, a nation that turned democratic in order to welcome the world to the Summer Games. North Korea, Cuba, Ethiopia and Nicaragua boycotted though records were set with 159 nations participating, 52 winning medals and 31 taking home gold medals.

The Opening Ceremony provided a dramatic start to the Games when 76-year-old Sohn Kee-chung, the winner of the 1936 marathon, ran into the stadium with the torch. He was forced to enter the race using a Japanese name in 1936 because Korea was, at the time, occupied by Japan.

Christa Luding-Rothenburger made history at the 1988 Games in Seoul. In February 1988, she won gold and silver in speed skating for East Germany in the Calgary Winter Olympics. In the Summer Games, she won silver in the inaugural women’s cycling sprint event to become the only person in history to win medals in the Summer and Winter Games in the same year.

The Games saw its share of controversy too with Kristin Otto of East Germany winning six gold medals in swimming. Later however, it transpired that she has been fed a steady diet of prohibited drugs. Ben Johnson of Canada set a new world record in the 100m sprint and subsequently tested positive for steroids. Although Johnson was the 43rd Olympic athlete to be caught, he was the first ‘big name’ and the scandal rocked the sporting world.

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