Games of the XXIV Olympiad
Emblem of the 1988 Summer Olympics
Host citySeoul, South Korea
MottoHarmony and Progress
(화합과 전진)
Athletes8,453 (6,250 men, 2,203 women)
Events237 in 23 sports (31 disciplines)
Opening17 September 1988
Closing2 October 1988
Opened by
Sohn Mi-chung
Chung Sun-man
Kim Won-tak[1][2]
StadiumSeoul Olympic Stadium
1988 Summer Paralympics
1988 Summer Olympics
서울 하계 올림픽
Revised RomanizationSeoul Hagye Ollimpik
McCune–ReischauerSŏul Hagye Ollimp'ik
IPA[sʰʌ.uɭ haɡje oɭːimpʰik̚]

The 1988 Summer Olympics (Korean1988년 하계 올림픽; RR1988-nyeon Hagye Ollimpik), officially the Games of the XXIV Olympiad (제24회 올림픽경기대회; Je-24-hoe Ollimpik-Gyeonggidaehoe) and officially branded as Seoul 1988 (서울 1988), was an international multi-sport event held from 17 September to 2 October 1988 in Seoul, South Korea. 159 nations were represented at the games by a total of 8,391 athletes (6,197 men and 2,194 women). 237 events were held and 27,221 volunteers helped to prepare the Olympics.

The 1988 Seoul Olympics were the second summer Olympic Games held in Asia, after Tokyo 1964, and the first held in South Korea.[3] As the host country, South Korea ranked fourth overall, winning 12 gold medals and 33 medals in the competition. 11,331 media (4,978 written press and 6,353 broadcasters) showed the Games all over the world.[4] These were the last Olympic Games of the Cold War, as well as for the Soviet Union and East Germany, as both ceased to exist before the next Olympic Games in 1992. The Soviet Union dominated the medal count, winning 55 gold and 132 total medals. The results that got closest to that medal haul in the years since are China's and the USA's 48 gold medals in 2008 and 2012, respectively, and the USA's 121 total medals in 2016.

Compared to the 1980 Summer Olympics (Moscow) and the 1984 Summer Olympics (Los Angeles), which were divided into two camps by ideology, the 1988 Seoul Olympics was a competition in which the boycotts virtually disappeared, although they were not completely over. North Korea boycotted the 1988 Seoul Olympics, as did five socialist countries including Cuba, an ally of North Korea. Albania, Ethiopia, and Seychelles did not respond to the invitation sent by the IOC.[5] Nicaragua did not participate due to athletic and financial considerations,[6] while the expected participation of Madagascar was withdrawn for financial reasons.[7] Nonetheless, the much larger boycotts seen in the three previous editions were avoided, resulting in the largest number of participating nations during the Cold War era, and thus regarded as the Olympics that laid the groundwork for the end of the Cold War.

For South Korea, the 1988 Olympics was a symbolic event that elevated its international image while also contributing to national pride.[8] Only thirty-five years after the Korean War which devastated the nation, and during a decade of social unrest in South Korea, the Olympics was successfully held and became the culmination of what was deemed the "Miracle on the Han River".[9][10]

Host city selection

Seoul was chosen to host the Summer Games through a vote held on 30 September 1981, finishing ahead of Nagoya, Japan.[4] The awarding to Seoul was internationally considered to be surprising, with Nagoya having been considered a favourite.[3] Below was the vote count that occurred at the 84th IOC Session and 11th Olympic Congress in Baden-Baden, West Germany.[11]

1988 Summer Olympics bidding result[12]
City Country (NOC) Round 1
Seoul  South Korea 52
Nagoya  Japan 27

Seoul had previously hosted many international events, but the most noteworthy ones were the Miss Universe 1980 and the 1986 Asian Games, thus demonstrating that it had the appropriate capability.[13]


Kim Won-tak (athlete), Chong Son-man (teacher) and Son Mi-jong (dance student) during the lighting of the 1988 Summer Olympic cauldron
Fireworks at the closing ceremony of the 1988 Summer Olympics


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 during the opening ceremony was in 1992 in Barcelona, at the start of the ceremony. Balloon doves were released in 1994 Winter Olympics and the 1998 Winter Olympics and paper doves were used at the Atlanta Ceremony in 1996.[42]

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,[43] as well as a mass demonstration of taekwondo. The skydiving team trained at SkyDance SkyDiving and had hoped the opening ceremony appearance would set the stage for skydiving becoming a medal event by 2000.[44]

Domestic historical significance

Seoul Olympic Stadium

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, as hosting the Olympics was a big opportunity to bring international attention to South Korea. But before that, it was necessary to prove the country's capacity, as South Korea was seen as an exotic and risky destination for large events.[45] The project continued to run even after President Park's assassination in 1979. With the successful staging of Miss Universe 1980 and the 1986 Asian Games, Chun Doo-hwan, Park's 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 and less rigidity in state policies. Further, he hoped it would provide protection from increasing threats from North Korea, and showcase the economic strength that the country was experiencing to the world.[46] Seoul was awarded the bid on 30 September 1981, becoming the 16th nation in the Summer Olympics, as well as the second Asian nation (following Japan in the 1964 Summer Olympics) and the first mainland Asian nation to host the Olympics.

Influenced by the model of 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, which served as a rite of passage for the Japanese economy and re-integration of Japan in the international community in the post-war era, the South Korean government hoped to use the Olympics as a "coming-out party". The Olympics gave a powerful impetus to the development of South Korea's relations with Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and with China.[47] In January 1982, South Korea's curfew that had been in place since 1945 was lifted.[48]

In utilizing media events theory, Larson and Park investigated the 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 hosting the Games: rapid economic modernization, social mobilization and the legitimization of the military dictatorship.[49]

Homeless camp expansion

Existing camps for "vagrants" (homeless persons) were ramped up before the 1988 Olympics. An Associated Press article states that homeless and alcoholic persons, "but mostly children and the disabled" were arrested and sent to these camps to prepare for the Olympics. In addition, a prosecutor had his investigation into the Brothers Home camp limited at a number of levels of government "in part out of fear of an embarrassing international incident on the eve of the Olympics."[50]

In 1975, the previous president of South Korea had begun a policy of rounding up vagrants. According to government documents obtained by the Associated Press, from 1981 to 1986 the number of people held increased from 8,600 to more than 16,000.[51] Police officers often received promotions based on the number of vagrants they had arrested, and owners of facilities received a subsidy based on the number of people held. There were multiple reports of inmates raped or beaten, and sometimes beaten to death.[50]

4,000 of these "vagrants" were held at the Brothers Home facility.[52] Many of the guards were former inmates who had been "promoted" because of loyalty to the camp's owner. Various money-making operations were conducted such as manufacturing ball-point pens and fishing hooks, as well as clothing for Daewoo. Only a few inmates were paid belatedly for this work.[50]

By accident while on a hunting trip, prosecutor Kim Yong-won heard about and visited a work detail of prisoners in ragged clothes overseen by guards with wooden bats and dogs. In his words, he knew immediately that "a very serious crime" was occurring, and in January 1987, he led a raid on the facility and found beaten and malnourished inmates. He was politically pressured at various levels to reduce the charges against the owner, managers, and guards. In the end, the owner only served 2+12 years in prison.[50]

The Brothers Home was a religious facility based on the Christian faith. There were in fact inspections by both city officials and church officials. However, these were scheduled inspections in which healthier inmates were presented in carefully planned and orchestrated circumstances. There were no unannounced inspections.[50]

In the 1990s, construction workers found about 100 human bones on a mountainside outside the location of the former Brothers Home.[50] Victims of the Brothers Home are seeking a government investigation into the crimes committed and accountability.[52]


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Countries boycotting or absent from the 1988 Games are shaded blue.

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 communist 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"[53] was adopted. The declaration offered support for participation in the 1988 Olympics by all members of the Association of National Olympic Committees. The agreement with the Soviet Union was reached in 1987. 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.[54]

The games were boycotted by North Korea and its ally Cuba. Ethiopia, Albania and the Seychelles did not respond to the invitations sent by the IOC.[5] Nicaragua did not participate due to athletic and financial considerations.[6] Madagascar had been expected to participate before withdrawing for financial reasons.[7]

Official theme song

The official Olympic Torch used during the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul

Main article: Hand in Hand (Olympic theme song)

In 1988, the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee (SLOOC) produced and distributed 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.


Main article: Venues of the 1988 Summer Olympics

The World Peace Gate in Seoul
Jamsil Indoor Swimming Pool
Seoul Olympic Park in autumn

E Existing facilities modified or refurbished in preparation for the Olympic Games.
N New facilities constructed in preparation for the Olympic Games.


According to The Oxford Olympics Study data is not available to establish the cost of the Seoul 1988 Summer Olympics.[55] the cost of the stadium was 491 billion won, approximately 354 million USD.


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The 1988 Summer Olympics featured 23 different sports encompassing 31 disciplines, and medals were awarded in 237 events. In the list below, the number of events in each discipline is noted in parentheses.

Erich Buljung shows a silver medal he won in the 10m air pistol competition at the 1988 Summer Olympics.



Badminton and bowling were held as exhibition sports, which did not require IOC approval and were not part of the official Olympic schedule.[56]


All times are local KST (UTC+10)

Note: between May 8 and October 9, 1988,all the clocks in the country were advanced by one hour as a test of the possibility of adopting the daylight summer time in the country in the future. This advance also enabled the development of a sports calendar in which the main events were scheduled to be broadcast in major Western markets in television prime time.

 ●  Opening ceremony     Event competitions  ●  Event finals  ●  Closing ceremony
Date September October



Field hockey
Football (soccer)

Modern pentathlon


Synchronized swimming
Table tennis
Water polo

Total gold medals 5 7 9 14 17 12 30 26 9 15 9 11 36 37 9
Date 17th
September October

Participating National Olympic Committees

Participants (blue nations had their first entrance)
Number of athletes sent by each nation

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:[57]

Participating National Olympic Committees

^ Note: 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.

Number of athletes by National Olympic Committee

8,453 athletes from 159 NOCs

IOC Letter Code Country Athletes
AFG  Afghanistan 5
ALG  Algeria 42
ASA  American Samoa 6
AND  Andorra 3
ANG  Angola 24
ANT  Antigua and Barbuda 15
ARG  Argentina 118
ARU  Aruba 8
AUS  Australia 252
AUT  Austria 73
BAH  Bahamas 16
BRN  Bahrain 7
BAN  Bangladesh 6
BAR  Barbados 17
BEL  Belgium 59
BIZ  Belize 10
BEN  Benin 7
BER  Bermuda 12
BHU  Bhutan 3
BOL  Bolivia 7
BOT  Botswana 8
BRA  Brazil 160
IVB  British Virgin Islands 3
BUL  Bulgaria 172
BUR  Burkina Faso 6
BRU  Brunei[Note] 0
BIR  Burma 2
CMR  Cameroon 15
CAN  Canada 328
CAY  Cayman Islands 8
CAF  Central African Republic 15
CHA  Chad 6
CHI  Chile 17
CHN  China 273
COL  Colombia 40
CGO  Republic of the Congo 7
COK  Cook Islands 7
CRC  Costa Rica 16
CYP  Cyprus 9
TCH  Czechoslovakia 163
DEN  Denmark 78
DJI  Djibouti 6
DOM  Dominican Republic 16
ECU  Ecuador 13
EGY  Egypt 49
ESA  El Salvador 6
GEQ  Equatorial Guinea 6
FIJ  Fiji 23
FIN  Finland 78
FRA  France 266
GAB  Gabon 2
GAM  The Gambia 6
GDR  East Germany 259
FRG  West Germany 347
GHA  Ghana 16
GBR  Great Britain 345
GRE  Greece 56
GRN  Grenada 6
GUM  Guam 19
GUA  Guatemala 28
GUI  Guinea 6
GUY  Guyana 8
HAI  Haiti 4
HON  Honduras 8
HKG  Hong Kong 48
HUN  Hungary 188
ISL  Iceland 32
IND  India 46
INA  Indonesia 29
IRI  Iran 23
IRQ  Iraq 27
IRL  Ireland 61
ISR  Israel 18
ITA  Italy 253
CIV  Ivory Coast 28
JAM  Jamaica 35
JPN  Japan 255
JOR  Jordan 7
KEN  Kenya 74
KOR  South Korea 401
KUW  Kuwait 25
LAO  Laos 3
LIB  Lebanon 21
LES  Lesotho 6
LBR  Liberia 8
LBA  Libya 6
LIE  Liechtenstein 12
LUX  Luxembourg 8
MAW  Malawi 16
MAS  Malaysia 9
MDV  Maldives 7
MLI  Mali 6
MLT  Malta 6
MTN  Mauritania 6
MRI  Mauritius 8
MEX  Mexico 83
MON  Monaco 9
MGL  Mongolia 28
MAR  Morocco 27
MOZ  Mozambique 8
NEP  Nepal 16
NED  Netherlands 147
AHO  Netherlands Antilles 3
NZL  New Zealand 83
NIG  Niger 6
NGR  Nigeria 69
NOR  Norway 69
OMA  Oman 8
PAK  Pakistan 30
PAN  Panama 6
PNG  Papua New Guinea 11
PAR  Paraguay 10
PER  Peru 21
PHI  Philippines 31
POL  Poland 143
POR  Portugal 65
PUR  Puerto Rico 47
QAT  Qatar 10
ROM  Romania 68
RWA  Rwanda 6
VIN  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6
SMR  San Marino 11
KSA  Saudi Arabia 9
SEN  Senegal 23
SLE  Sierra Leone 12
SIN  Singapore 8
SOL  Solomon Islands 4
SOM  Somalia 5
URS  Soviet Union 481
ESP  Spain 229
SRI  Sri Lanka 6
SUD  Sudan 8
SUR  Suriname 6
SWZ  Swaziland 11
SWE  Sweden 184
SUI  Switzerland 99
SYR  Syria 13
TPE  Chinese Taipei 61
TAN  Tanzania 10
THA  Thailand 14
TOG  Togo 6
TGA  Tonga 5
TRI  Trinidad and Tobago 6
TUN  Tunisia 41
TUR  Turkey 41
UGA  Uganda 24
UAE  United Arab Emirates 12
USA  United States 527
URU  Uruguay 15
VAN  Vanuatu 4
VEN  Venezuela 17
VIE  Vietnam 9
ISV  Virgin Islands 22
WSM  Western Samoa 11
YAR  North Yemen 8
YMD  South Yemen 5
YUG  Yugoslavia 155
ZAI  Zaire 15
ZAM  Zambia 29
ZIM  Zimbabwe 29

Medal count

Gold medal of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul

Main article: 1988 Summer Olympics medal table

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

1 Soviet Union (URS)553146132
2 East Germany (GDR)373530102
3 United States (USA)36312794
4 South Korea (KOR)*12101133
5 West Germany (FRG)11141540
6 Hungary (HUN)116623
7 Bulgaria (BUL)10121335
8 Romania (ROU)711624
9 France (FRA)64616
10 Italy (ITA)64414
Totals (10 entries)191158164513

  *   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.[59] Hodori's female version was called Hosuni.[60]

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".[59]


In the United States, NBC became the telecast provider hereafter for the Summer Games, after a five-Olympics run by American Broadcasting Company from 1968 to 1984.

NBC's coverage was their first sporting event to feature the new Quantel Cypher to generate the on-screen graphics. However, the network would continue to use Chyron for the rest of the year with Quantel being used again for the 1988 World Series. The Cypher would be used permanently starting with Super Bowl XXIII in January 1989.


Name Country Sport Banned substance Medals Ref.
Ali Dad  Afghanistan Wrestling Furosemide
Kerrith Brown  Great Britain Judo Furosemide 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) (71 kg) [61]
Kalman Csengeri  Hungary Weightlifting Stanozolol
Mitko Grablev  Bulgaria Weightlifting Furosemide 1st place, gold medalist(s) (56 kg)
Angell Guenchev  Bulgaria Weightlifting Furosemide 1st place, gold medalist(s) (67.5 kg)
Ben Johnson  Canada Athletics Stanozolol 1st place, gold medalist(s) (men's 100 m) [62]
Fernando Mariaca  Spain Weightlifting Pemoline
Jorge Quesada  Spain Modern pentathlon Propanolol
Andor Szanyi  Hungary Weightlifting Stanozolol 2nd place, silver medalist(s) (100 kg)
Alexander Watson  Australia Modern Pentathlon Caffeine

In 2003, Wade Exum, the United States Olympic Committee's director of drug control administration from 1991 to 2000, released documents that showed Carl Lewis had tested positive three times at the 1988 United States Olympic trials for minimum amounts of pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, which were banned stimulants. Bronchodilators are also found in cold medication. Due to the rules, his case could have led to disqualification from the Seoul Olympics and suspension from competition for six months. The levels of the combined stimulants registered in the separate tests were 2 ppm, 4 ppm and 6 ppm.[63] Lewis defended himself, claiming that he had accidentally consumed the banned substances. After the supplements that he had taken were analyzed to prove his claims, the USOC accepted his claim of inadvertent use, since a dietary supplement he ingested was found to contain "Ma huang", the Chinese name for Ephedra (ephedrine is known to help weight loss).[63] Fellow Santa Monica Track Club teammates Joe DeLoach and Floyd Heard were also found to have the same banned stimulants in their systems, and were cleared to compete for the same reason.[64][65] The highest level of the stimulants Lewis recorded was 6 ppm, which was regarded as a positive test in 1988 but is now regarded as negative test. The acceptable level has been raised to ten parts per million for ephedrine and twenty-five parts per million for other substances.[63][66] According to the IOC rules at the time, positive tests with levels lower than 10 ppm were cause of further investigation but not immediate ban. Neal Benowitz, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco who is an expert on ephedrine and other stimulants, agreed that "These [levels] are what you'd see from someone taking cold or allergy medicines and are unlikely to have any effect on performance."[63] Following Exum's revelations the IAAF acknowledged that at the 1988 Olympic Trials the USOC indeed followed the correct procedures in dealing with eight positive findings for ephedrine and ephedrine-related compounds in low concentration. Additionally, in 1988 the federation reviewed the relevant documents with the athletes' names undisclosed and stated that "the medical committee felt satisfied, however, on the basis of the information received that the cases had been properly concluded by the USOC as 'negative cases' in accordance with the rules and regulations in place at the time and no further action was taken".[67][68]

See also


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Summer Olympics Preceded byLos Angeles XXIV OlympiadSeoul 1988 Succeeded byBarcelona