Nelson Mandela was one of the international officials attending the opening ceremony of the games. The ceremony had an effect on the South African leader. Years later, in the film Invictus, Morgan Freeman portrayed Mandela speaking to the captain of the South African national rugby team, François Pienaar, about the games: “I remember when I was invited to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Everybody in the stadium greeted me with a song. At the time, the future, our future, seemed very bleak but to hear that song in the voices of people from all over our planet made me proud to be South African It allowed me to expect more of myself”.
We’re going to finish this together
One of the most memorable scenes from the events held at the games was the 400 metres semi-finals. Britain’s Derek Redmond had to pull up various times and fell to the floor with tears in his eyes, clearly in pain. He didn’t want any help to get up, as he wanted to reach the finish line by himself, following months of operations on his hamstring. His father, however, barged his way onto the track, put his arm around his son’s shoulder and helped him reach the finish line. After crossing the line he hugged him and uttered the epic phrase: “We started your career together and we will finish it together”.
A new world order
The Barcelona 92 Olympic Games took place amid a world undergoing major changes. The Soviet Union had dissolved at the end of 1991, Germany had been reunified in 1990, as had Yemen. Yugoslavia had also disappeared and Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina had all emerged as new states.
Finally, South Africa made a return to the Olympic Games after embarking on the negotiations which would end apartheid. For its part, Namibia also took part as a state, having achieved independence from South Africa in 1990.
The unity of a continent
The end of apartheid brought one of the most emotive scenes of the Barcelona Olympic Games. In the women’s 10,000 metre event the athletes Derartu Tulu (a black athlete from Ethiopia) and Elana Meyer (a white athlete of South African origin) came first and second respectively. The image of them holding hands and doing a lap of honour in the Olympic Stadium to acknowledge the public became an icon for an Africa undergoing change.
The ‘Dream Team’
Once the FIBA gave the green light for professional basketball players to compete in the games, the presence of the USA national team became a real phenomenon. The ‘Dream Team’, made up of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and company, managed to notch up an average of 117 points per match, beating their opponents by an average of 44 points. An authentic whirlwind, and a sight to behold.
An unparalleled case
The Chinese competitor Zhang Shan won the skeet shooting final in a competition where all her rivals were men. Not only did she achieve an unparalleled feat in the history of the Olympic Games, but she did so with a score of 373 out of 375, an Olympic and world record.
The oldest sprinter
When Britain’s Linford Christie won the men’s 100 metre final at the age of 32, he became the oldest sprinter to have won gold in the event. Christie had already taken the silver at the Seoul 88 Olympics.