The 1988 Seoul Olympics

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The XXIV Summer Olympiad hosted by South Korea provided a new opportunity for world peace amidst the Cold War. With the motto of "Harmony and Progress," these games resolved some of the Cold-War-era ideological conflicts and racial discrimination. For Korea, it was an opportunity to raise its international stature, as 160 nations around the world competed in the events held from September 17 to October 2, taking advantage of Korea's best weather.

When the 84th IOC Session and the 11th Olympic Congress held in Baden-Baden in September 1981 awarded Seoul as the host of the 1988 Summer Olympics, it had two major implications: First, nations around the world divided between the two ideological poles, came together in Korea which was divided as a result of Cold War confrontation. At the 22nd Olympics held in Moscow in 1980, 60 nations including the United States boycotted the games to protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. At the 23rd Olympic Games held in Los Angeles in 1984, 18 Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union boycotted the event. The international community watched the boycotts with the concern that the Olympics might further degrade into political confrontation. The fact that the 24th Olympics would be held in divided Korea would be a new turning point.

Second, the fact that the Olympics were hosted by South Korea, which only 30 years ago suffered a terribly destructive war, was meaningful in itself, as they helped it to discard the image of a devastated war-torn nation. Instead, South Korea transmitted to the world its cultural achievements and economic development.

The Seoul Olympic Games were also the last tournament in which countries such as the Soviet Union, East Germany, West Germany, North Yemen, and South Yemen participated as separate states. The Soviet Union was dissolved before the Barcelona Olympic Games held in 1992. Germany and Yemen were reunited before the Olympics.

Korea could promote economic, cultural, and sports exchanges with communist countries and other nations with which it had no previous diplomatic ties. Thanks to the Seoul Olympics, relations with many countries improved rapidly. The reconnecting with China was an especially epocal event. Through the Seoul Olympics, Korea demonstrated Korea’s unique culture and excellent event-operation capability to the world, which showed the rapid economic and social growth it had achieved since the Korean War.

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