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The Last Word

Last Word

The Olympics are fun to watch, but what do you remember when they’re over? Passport asked everyone we could find and their uncle to tell us their most vivid memory of a Summer Olympic Games. Here’s what some of them said. 

“It was the last Olympics when there was still a Soviet team, and I remember sitting in my parents’ living room watching Sergei Bubka win a gold medal.”Anna from Moscow

At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergei Bubka brought home one of the Soviet Union’s last gold medals. By the end of the 1988 season, he had set a new world record, becoming the first vaulter to clear 6 meters (19’8”). Over the course of his career, Bubka set 35 pole-vaulting world records, the last of which, 6.14 meters (20’ 1 ¾”), still stands.

“The 1992 Games when an archer fired a burning arrow into the Olympic cauldron to light the flame.”Jill from Singapore

At the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, archer Antonio Rebollo
opened the Games with a snap of his bow. 

“It would have to be Flo Jo’s fingernails or Zola Budd’s feet.”Claire from Britain

Florence Griffith-Joyner rose to fame as a track star during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, but it wasn’t because of her silver medal alone: Her exceptionally long and colorful fingernails earned her a good amount of media attention. Her nails didn’t slow her down four years later, either. In 1988, Flo Jo left Seoul with three gold medals.

Zola Budd is known for training and racing barefoot. Though she holds numerous British and South African records, she never won an Olympic medal (though she did collide with another runner).

“It may sound a little banal, but it’s the closing ceremony of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which I watched on TV at the time — the flying Olympic bear above Luzhniki Stadium.”Vladimir from Moscow

Bear due to come out of hibernation: 2014

“A Scottish runner winning a medal in 1980.”Graeme from Glasgow

Allan Wells, who flouted the official British boycott to attend the Moscow Games, beat Cuban Silvio Leonard to become the first Scot since 1924 to win the Olympic 100 meters. It was the closest race this event had seen in 28 years, coming down to a photo finish with both runners timed at 10.25 seconds.

“Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics.”Nelson from Colorado

After winning gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Games in Mexico City, American Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Power salute on the podium while accepting their respective medals. At the time, the Olympic establishment frowned upon the political gesture as a violation of the nonpartisan spirit of the Games. In July of 2008, however, the two athletes accepted the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for their statement 40 years earlier.

“To me the Olympics are just a kind of blur ... People running around in circles, or some guys seeing who can jump over the highest stick. I can’t understand why everyone takes it so seriously or why nations vie to spend unintelligibly large sums of money on staging these events. And the thing with all the medals? You win a medal for throwing a stick?” Curmudgeon from Britain

Cost of venues for Beijing Olympics: 13 billion yuan ($1.8 billion). Projected cost of opening and closing ceremonies for Beijing Olympics: $100 million.

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