Gorbachev, a friend and a relief for Olympism


The opening promoted by Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the USSR who died on Tuesday, also had a sports drift. and certainly contributed to ending the phase of Olympic boycotts and the Seoul ’88 Games being held again with universal participation.

After the United States’ boycott of the Moscow ’80 Games and the USSR and its allies’ Los Angeles ’84, Relations between Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan led to a return to normality and the meeting under the umbrella of five rings of the best athletes in the world.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the IOC, is a hopeful witness and cautious advocate of that rapprochement between the two great powers of the world, as well as in the field of sports.

I’m always worried, but I’m also convinced that Seoul’88 will be a success.to which the political atmosphere that the world breathes today will contribute after the contacts between President Reagan and the Soviet leader Gorbachev, which helped a lot to create a climate of peace favorable to the celebration of the greatest festival in the world,” assured Samaranch in January 1988, eight months before the Games.

The two political leaders held a summit in Moscow in May 1988, which was enthusiastically applauded by the IOC president: “The whole world hopes that your historic meeting will advance the cause of world peace. It is with great hope that the hundreds of millions of supporters of the Olympic movement on our planet have been following your efforts for many years to achieve this goal and send you their warmest and kindest encouragement,” Samaranch said in a public statement.

His wishes came true: the joint statement issued by the USSR and the US after the summit stated in one of its points that the two countries will intensify their sports relations and provide “their support for the Olympic movement, which is a peace movement between people“.

The way for the Seoul Games is certainly clear: the Olympic family will meet again for the first time since Montreal’76.

Only North Korea refused to participate, a position supported by its allies Albania, Cuba and Ethiopia.

The Soviet Union made a triumphant return to the Olympic stage by winning the medal table with 132 metals55 of them were gold, ahead of East Germany (102 medals) and the United States (94).

What was unimaginable then was that these would be the last Games in which the USSR would participate: after its disintegration, the Baltic countries already participated in Barcelona’92 as independent teams and the remaining former Soviet republics were temporarily united -together under the name of Team Unified.

Those twelve republics -Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan- they dominated the medal table in Barcelona and since Atlanta’96 they have fought separately.

Gorbachev and the IOC have always maintained good relations. The sports organization was one of the main contributors after the December 1988 earthquake in Armenia, one of the worst in history, which killed more than 25,000 people.

The IOC has created sports and training zones in the earthquake-ravaged regionsent lots of sports equipment and covered training, travel and education costs for the orphans of the tragedy.

‘Perestroika’ also reached a sport as professional as tennis and in October 1989 the USSR hosted a professional tournament for the first time, the WTA in Moscow, with a 100,000 dollar prize money and a draw that was a complete symbol of the new situation: the American Pam Shriver and the Soviet Natalia Zvereva is the first two seeds.

Until then, tennis was present in the USSR only in exhibitions or amateur tournaments, where the winner was awarded a glass trophy.

During a visit to Spain in 1990, Gorbachev and his wife Raisa went to the Montjuïc Olympic Ring to see the facilities that will host the Barcelona Games two years later. The president appeared in Barcelona wearing Cobi, the mascot of the Games, on his lapel.

In 1993, Gorbachev and Reagan were actively involved in supporting Berlin’s candidacy to organize the 2000 Olympic Games, but their support was not enough: the German city was defeated by the Australian Sydney, which took over the venue.

Source: La Verdad


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