This August marks the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was a memorable Games–the first in Spain, the first boycott-free since 1972. The world had changed dramatically in the last four years, with the end of both the Cold War in Eastern Europe and apartheid in South Africa. The breakup of the Soviet Union saw Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania competing independently for the first time in decades. Germany’s teams were reunified. Other former Soviet republics banded together as a “Unified Team.” Due to the conflict in Yugoslavia, the IOC banned that country but allowed its individual athletes to compete.
Barcelona was also the debut of the Dream Team, the first time professional basketball players were allowed to compete, meaning that the U.S. mopped the floor with the competition. Other debuts in medal sports were baseball (now off the program, but re-added for Tokyo 2020), badminton and judo. Exhibition sports were taekwondo (now a medal sport), roller hockey and Basque pelota.
But Barcelona 1992 stands out also because of its amazing Opening Ceremony, in particular, the most innovative torch lighting yet–and arguably the best. Have a look:
Now to celebrate the 25th anniversary, you can carry the Barcelona torch on the Olympic Channel’s game, You Can’t Torch This. It’s a Frogger-like game to get the torch to its final destination. Can you do it in 60 seconds?
The Opening Ceremony’s full of pomp and circumstance, probably the most impressive of which is the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron. After a long journey from Greece and around the host nation, the Flame gets transferred to some type of cauldron and is the visible reminder to the whole city that the Olympics are on.
Since the Flame’s one of the biggest Olympic symbols, the lighting of the cauldron’s taken on a pretty big air of mystique–and the person who lights it is generally one of the best-kept secrets of the Opening Ceremonies.
The other big secret (and show) is how the cauldron will be lit. Arguably the best-ever lighting method was in Barcelona 1992. Barcelona’s cauldron was atop the stadium so that the Flame was visible from afar. This isn’t always the case–sometimes the Flame is on display at ground level around the central Olympic area. Personally, although those cauldrons have been pretty cool, I still think there’s something a little more magical about the stadium-topping cauldron that you can see from far away.
Anyway, here’s how Barcelona stunned the world:
Can you imagine how many ways that could’ve gone wrong? And what would’ve happened if it did? But no! It was pretty darned amazing.
Here’s the story behind one of the most difficult ways to light the flame:
Welcome to a new feature we’re calling “Favorite Olympic Moments,” where we reminisce about some of the moments that make the Olympics so exciting and so much fun to watch. These are the moments where athletes faced the pressure of the world stage and defined the Olympic spirit.
Los Angeles 1984.
During the LA games, I was pretty into swimming. I was a decent age-group swimmer, specializing in breaststroke (and later–oddly enough, since I wasn’t great at butterfly–Individual Medley). I also was a solid breaststroke leg on a medley relay. I’d spent a couple of summers going to week-long swim camps–one run by the legendary Doc Counsilman from Indiana University–which improved my swimming a lot (I actually still swim some of the drills I learned there when I swim my own workouts), and solidified my excitement about the sport.
The LA Games happened in the middle of my swimming “career,” so to speak, and it was the first Games that got me hooked on the Olympics. Swimming events are early on in the Games, so I was glued to the TV early and often. For me, the women’s 100-meter freestyle really set the tone for an amazing Games. Take a watch:
Continue reading “Favorite Olympic Moments: Los Angeles 1984 – The Tie!”