The Best of Summer - Bronze Medal: Barcelona 1992

Surely, Barcelona had history on her side. When the Catalan capital was awarded the 1992 Summer Games in October 1986, nobody knew that the world was just going through the last phase of the Cold War. Six years later, on opening night, July 25th, 1992, Montjuic Stadium witnessed the dawn of the Games of the new world order. The parade of nations was a caleidoscope of unifications and split-ups, comebacks and newcomers.

For the first time since 1964, Germany fielded a unified team (picture: imago), while the remnants of the Soviet Union were merely held together by the so-called "Unified Team" - a one-time construction that was replaced by the nations of the former U.S.S.R. four years later in Atlanta. Some new or reborn eastern European countries were already on the starting bloc in Spain: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia and Slovenia.

All in all, Barcelona ended almost two decades of Olympic boycotts. Cuba returned for the first time since Moscow 1980 under the eyes of a cheerfully waving Fidel Castro. Even North Korea was on the starting bloc again. 

Probably most important, South Africa ended her 32 year absence forced by apartheid politics with a team representing all ethnic groups. The women's 10,000 meter duel between Ethiopia's Derartu Tulu and South Africa's Elana Meyer (picture: Getty Images) became one of the symbolic highlights of these Olympics, with Tulu finally taking the gold. Both athletes afterwards ran their victory lap together.

But Barcelona also saw the first appearance of the so called "Independent Olympic Participant". While civil war had reaped havoc all over former Yugoslavia, her athletes were only allowed to start at the Games in single events. In the end, the competitors from Serbia and Macedonia won three medals - all in shooting

From a sporting perspective, the undisputed highlight of the 1992 Games was the U.S. basketball "Dream Team". The NBA stars put on the greatest single spectacle the Olympics had ever seen, with fans and international media going crazy. "Dream Team" head coach Chuck Daly put it that way: "This feels like being on tour with twelve rock stars."

The "Dream Team" was later often copied, but non of its successors came close to the quality, the aura, and the euphoria surrounding the original.

Amid this frenzy, its is often forgotten that Barcelona was one of the few cities to take great profit from staging the Games in the long run. In the six years before, the Catalan capital was virtually revamped and reinvented, especially the Olympic area on the Montjuic and the harbour quarter that hosted the Olympic Village.

Finally, 1992 provided one of the most emotional and inspiring episodes in the history of the Games and of sport at all. Center stage took 400 meter runner Derek Redmond from Great Britain. A world class athlete whose career had been plagued by injuries, Redmond tore a muscle after 150 meters of his semifinal run. He continued to limp towards the finish line. On the home stretch, he was accompanied and assisted by his father, tears all over his face. A memorable moment that shook the hearts of almost any spectator.

No wonder the IOC later used the images of Redmond's effort as part of a commercial campaign. The fitting title was "Celebrate Humanity".

Keine Kommentare:

Kommentar veröffentlichen