Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Past Olympics

For earlier posts in this series, click on the 'Olympics' tag at the bottom. 
  • The 1992 winter games were held in Albertville, France, making France a three time winter games host.  Albertville is in the Savoy region and they saw the Olympics as a chance to develop their winter tourism.  The events were spread out, leading to protests from environmental groups.  After this the IOC declared that future games could be spread further to reduce environmental damage.  Big political changes had happened since '88.  The Baltic States competed under their own flags for the first time since the 30s.  The former Soviet Union competed as 'the Unified Team' and German athletes were unified into one team.  Short track ice skating and mogul skiing were new events.
  • Barcelona got the 1992 summer games.  The IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had helped to bring the Olympics to his home region.  He was a big supporter of commercialism and openly thanked Olympic sponsors.  This caused some tension, especially as event starting times were closely aligned with television interests.  South Africa returned to the games for the first time since 1960.  The former Soviets still competed as a Unified Team.  Cuba and China garnered some criticism for not participating in drug testing before the games.  The Opening Ceremonies were quite the spectacle, at one point pitting Hercules ships against sea monsters (video here).  I remember this as the 'Dream Team' Olympics, as the US put together one of the greatest basketball teams ever, using pros for the first time.  There are pictures of the swimming and diving and it looks like it was held outdoors (and it looks great!).  The French won a medal in windsurfing, which is not in this year's games.
  • In 1986 the IOC realized that it was tough for them to get all the network funding that they needed if both winter and summer games were held in the same year.  They decided to alternate in two year intervals, starting with winter games in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway.  When the games were awarded, Lillehammer was a town of only 21,000 but it was soon developed into a first rate site.  There was no more Unified Team, instead the former Soviets competed as their newly independent home countries.  Free style aerial skiing was added.  The biggest story was that of the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan competition in skating, which ended up with assault charges and much unpleasantness.  Sweden won it's first men's hockey gold.  
  • In 1996, the summer games were held in Atlanta.  The book mentions several things which bring back strong memories for me.  There was Muhammad Ali lighting the flame with shaking hands.  There was the Centennial Park bombing, which (thankfully!) was a much smaller event than the terrorism in Munich '72.  Michael Johnson became the first person to win both the 200m and 400m sprints and Carl Lewis won the long jump.  The most dramatic was probably gymnast Kerri Strugg vaulting on a badly sprained ankle in a an attempt to secure a gold medal.  Her coach had to carry her to the medal stands. 

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