Games of the XXIV Olympiad
1988 Summer Olympics logo.svg
Emblem of the 1988 Summer Olympics
Host citySeoul, South Korea
MottoHarmony and Progress
(Korean화합과 전진; RRHwahabgwa Jeonjin)
Athletes8,391 (6,197 men, 2,194 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
IPAsʌ.ul ɦaɡje olːimpʰik

The 1988 Summer Olympics (Korean1988년 하계 올림픽; RRCheon gubaek palsip-pal nyeon Hagye Ollimpig), officially known as the Games of the XXIV Olympiad (Korean제24회 올림픽경기대회; RRJeisipsahoe Ollimpiggyeong-gidaehoe) and commonly known as Seoul 1988 (Korean: 서울 1988, romanizedSeoul Cheon gubaek palsip-pal), 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 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 48 gold medals in 2008 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 boycotted by fewer countries (six, including North Korea). Albania, Ethiopia, and Seychelles did not respond to invitations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).[5] Nicaragua declined for athletic and financial reasons[6] and Madagascar financial.[7] These games attracted the largest number of participating nations during the Cold War and are sometimes cited as a means to its end.

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]For most international analysts, Seoul's eventual victory was seen as a major upset. Since many saw Nagoya as a safe and certain choice.[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 sporting events, but the most noteworthy ones were the Miss Universe 1980 and the 1986 Asian Games, thus demonstrating it could host big events and give the right direction to the city.[13]


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


This is the last time that 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 cauldron was lit and the doves were represented by flags during the opening ceremonies. Another creative solutions were made on next opening ceremonies. Balloon doves were released in the 1994 Winter Olympics and the 1998 Winter Olympics and paper doves were used at the 1996 Summer Olympics.[40]

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,[41] 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.[42]

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.[43] 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.[44] 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 as a rite of passage for the Japan and re-integration of the country in all political and economic senses at the international community in the post-war era,the South Korean government had hopes to use the Olympics as a "welcome party".From the beginning of the bid,the South Korean government saw that hosting the Summer Olympics was a crucial move to strengthen economic relations with some countries at the Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and with China.[45] In January 1982, South Korea's curfew that had been in place since 1945 was lifted.[46]

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.[47]

Homeless camp expansion

Existing camps for "vagrants" (homeless people) were ramped up before the 1988 Olympics. An Associated Press article states that homeless and alcoholic people, "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."[48]

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.[49] 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.[48]

4,000 of these "vagrants" were held at the Brothers Home facility.[50] 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.[48]

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 two-and-a-half years in prison.[48]

The Brothers Home was a religious facility based on the Christian faith. There were in fact inspections by both city officials and church officials. These were scheduled inspections in which healthier inmates were presented in carefully planned and orchestrated circumstances. There were no unannounced inspections.[48]

In the 1990s, construction workers found about 100 human bones on a mountainside outside the location of the former Brothers Home.[48] Victims of the Brothers Home are seeking a government investigation into the crimes committed and accountability.[50]


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Countries boycotting or absent from the 1988 Games are shaded blue.
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" [51] 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 sent invitations to the 1988 Games rather than leave this task to the organizing committee as had been done before. Behind the scenes, it considered 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.[52]

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
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
The World Peace Gate in Seoul
Jamsil Indoor Swimming Pool
Seoul Olympic Park in autumn
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.[53]


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.


These were the demonstration sports in the games:[4]


All times are local KDT (UTC+10)[a]
 ●  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
  1. ^ At the time of the multi-sports event, the time in South Korea was on a trial daylight saving time.

Participating National Olympic Committees

Participants (blue nations had their first entrance)
Participants (blue nations had their first entrance)
Number of athletes sent by each nation
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:[54]

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.

Medal count

Gold medal of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul
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.[56] Hodori's female version was called Hosuni.[57]

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".[56]


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.


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) [58]
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) [59]
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.[60] 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).[60] 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.[61][62] 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.[60][63] 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."[60] 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".[64][65]

See also


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Summer Olympics Preceded byLos Angeles XXIV OlympiadSeoul 1988 Succeeded byBarcelona