On July 25, 1992, the opening ceremonies of the Games of the XXV Olympiad are held in Barcelona, Spain. The Barcelona Olympics were the first ever in which professional athletes were allowed to participate, and the first Games since 1972 in which every member nation of the International Olympic Committee competed. In all, 169 countries fielded teams, the most in the history of the Olympics.
The 1992 Summer Olympics came just one year after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Twelve former Soviet states fielded a united team, while others such as Estonia and Lithuania fielded their own teams for the first time since the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The former Yugoslavian territories Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia; and Slovenia participated under their own flags for the first time. In addition, South Africa participated in the Olympics for the first time since 1960, when it was banned in protest of its racist apartheid policy.
One of the most anticipated performances of the 1992 Games was that of the U.S. men’s basketball team, nicknamed “The Dream Team.” International stars Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley competed alongside 11 other NBA All-Stars and Duke University standout Christian Laettner. The team schooled their competition, players who in many cases were just excited to be on the same court with them. Before the U.S. game against Angola, for instance, the Angolan players posed for pictures with their American competition and asked for autographs. For their part, the Americans were relaxed, confident and, following the lead of the gregarious Barkley, often joked with the press, their opponents and each other. The Dream Team won the gold easily, beating their opponents by an average of 44 points.
Another historic performance was made by Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia, winner of the 10,000 meters, who became the first black African woman ever to win an Olympic medal. Afterward, she shared a victory lap with white South African competitor Elana Meyer in recognition and celebration of South Africa’s recent abolishment of apartheid and as a symbolic gesture of African unity.
Other memorable moments from the Barcelona Games included American Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s second consecutive heptathlon victory; Carl Lewis’ third consecutive gold in the long jump; and host country Spain’s gold-medal performance in men’s soccer.