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The Legacy of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games

The Legacy of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games

Yoon, Hyunsun ORCID: 0000-0001-5679-3335 (2009) The Legacy of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. In: Poynter, Gavin and MacRury, Iain, (eds.) Olympic Cities – 2012 and the Remaking of London. Routledge, London, UK. ISBN 978-1138275492

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Seoul was awarded the 1988 Olympic Games on 29th September 1981 in Baden-Baden. The Olympic Movement was going through ‘a very worrying time’, recalls Juan Antonio Samaranch, the then President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC);

“The terrorist attack that traumatized the 1972 Games in Munich had demoralized several cities that were nurturing hopes of hosting the Olympic Games. Montreal’s financial problems in 1976 exacerbated this recession. As a result in 1978 only one city, Los Angeles, bid for the 1984 Games. The 1980 boycott of the Moscow Games was a further setback.” (Samaranch in Park, 1994: 406)

Only two oriental cities, Nagoya (Japan) and Seoul were bidding for the Games and Seoul was chosen. Held in a politically divided nation, the 1988 Games have the significance in that it was where athletes of the whole world met together for the first time since the 1976 Montreal Olympics. A total of 160 countries participated in the 1988 Games and the Games clearly had an impact on the Olympic Movement in that it ended the era of boycotts, despite the absence of seven countries.

The Olympic Movement, in return, has also affected the domestic political context of South Korea. The 1988 Seoul Games has been closely associated with a dramatic and decisive process of democratisation, by the end of which the military regime in South Korea had been peacefully displaced by a new era of multi-partyism and electoral democracy (Black and Bezanson, 2004: 1246). The IOC’s decision to award the 1988 Games to Seoul had been understood as an international legitimacy to the repressive military regime of General Chun Doo-Hwan (Kim, 1997: 392). The IOC’s decision can be seen as the instance where it turned a collective blind eye to the right-abusive practices of regimes that clearly violated the principles promoted in the Olympic Charter such as ‘the establishment of a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity’, ‘respect for universal fundamental ethical principles’, and incompatibility with ‘any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, sex or otherwise’ (Black and Bezanson, 2004: 1246). Ironically enough, the military-led government of President Chun for whom the bidding for the Seoul Olympics was very much a political project, was the last military regime.

The Games thus played a catalytic role in political change and there is no doubt that it also had the economic and cultural impacts on major events in the Korean peninsula. These include the joint entry of North and South Korea into the United Nations in September 1991 and the first international exposition held in a developing country at Tae-Jon in 1993. The Koreans are now hopeful that 2014 Olympic Winter Games will be held in Pyeong-Chang. By further building upon their efforts for 2010 Games, Pyeong-Chang is competing with Sochi (Russia) and Salzburg (Austria) this time. The focus of the campaign is the sustainable increase in winter sports participation in Asia (Jin, 2007: 24). Following the IOC’s site inspections of the three cities from February to March 2007, the decision will be made in Guatemala City on 4th July 2007 (Lee, 2007: 30).

This chapter explores further the political, economic and cultural impacts of the Games on the hosting city and country. It aims to examine the legacy of the 1988 Games, both hard legacy gains, such as improved infrastructure, and soft legacy gains, such as enhanced confidence and international status.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Seoul Olympics, Olympic legacy, political impact, cultural impact, economic impact
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Department of Marketing, Events & Tourism
Faculty of Business > Tourism Research Centre
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2021 13:40

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