Olympics History >> Barcelona 1992 >> Overview

Barcelona 1992 - Overview

Games turn page on Cold War

At Barcelona in 1992, the Olympic movement profited from the end of the Cold War that had so divided nations politically and provoked several disappointing boycotts.

The Soviet Union, which won the medals race four years earlier, no longer existed. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia took part under their own flags for the first time and the other former Soviet republics participated under the name of CIS (Community of Independent States).

Post-apartheid South Africa was back, as was Albania, which was welcomed back into the fold.

Barcelona rose magnificently to the challenge and the town council launched a public works program that changed the face of the city forever.

Atop the Montjuic Mountain beside Barcelona, the 1929 World's Fair stadium was renovated, and both a state-of-the-art indoor arena with eight interchangeable floors and an Olympic pool that overlooked the splendid Catalan capital were built.

The city's seafront was also entirely refashioned and the beaches were given a thorough cleaning.

Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus became the first gymnast to win six gold medals at the same Olympiad, but the greatest stir was caused by a group of men who were already established global superstars.

The U.S. brought the "Dream Team" of professional NBA basketball players -- Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird & Co. -- to an Olympics for the first time.

They were quite simply the highlight of the tournament and gave a string of magical performances on their way to gold.

Plenty to cheer about

Britain's Linford Christie took advantage of Carl Lewis' absence to become the oldest man to win an Olympic 100-meter sprint at the ripe old age of 32.

Lewis defeated Mike Powell in the long jump with the third of his four consecutive golds in the event. Powell, in 1991, had broken the world record held since 1968 by compatriot Bob Beamon.

Mike Marsh won the 200 meters with event favorite Michael Johnson suffering from food poisoning. Kevin Young beat Edwin Moses' 400 hurdles world record, clocking in at 46.78 for his gold.

Meanwhile French fans cheered Marie-José Pérec to a gold in the 400 meters, Cubans backed their favorite athlete, high jumper Javier Sotomayor, who did not disappoint, and Spain cheered the surprise 1500-meter win of Fermin Cacho.

British rower Steve Redgrave saw gold for the third straight time as did Turkey's weightlifting wonder, Naim Suleymanoglu, while Russian swimmer Alexander Popov began his domination of the 50 and 100 freestyle races.

A lasting image of the Games was provided when the gold- and silver-medal winners in the 10,000, Ethiopia's Derartu Tulu and South Africa's Elena Meyer, who is white, ran a lap of honor together.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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