Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race

By Charlie Lovett | Go to book overview

22
The Games of the XXIV Olympiad: Seoul, 1988

For sixteen years the Olympics had been plagued by politics and major boycotts. When the announcement was made that the 1988 Games would be held in Seoul, South Korea, fears of more political protests immediately broke out. After all, South Korea was still technically at war with its northern neighbor. North Korea was firmly allied with the Soviet Union, and as everyone had seen in 1984, the Soviet Union had the power to keep East Germany and other countries out of the Games. What could the IOC be thinking when they chose to award the Games to such a potentially volatile city?

In short, they were thinking that they had no choice. Only Nagoya, Japan had joined Seoul in bidding for the 1988 Games, and that city was deeply divided over the issue of hosting the Olympics, with petitions and protests being sent to the IOC begging that the Japanese city not be chosen.

But despite all their potential for trouble, the Seoul Olympics turned out to be the most peaceful in decades. Few countries joined North Korea's boycott, with the only significant athletic power being Cuba. Ethiopia did join, however, leaving the world record holder in the marathon, Belaine Densimo, who had run a blistering 2:06:50, at home. One hundred and sixty nations competed, twenty more than ever before. With 9,421 athletes competing in twenty-three sports, the Seoul Games were the biggest ever. The Soviet Union and East Germany both sent large and successful teams,

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