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you think back to where the world was at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, you might think the world has never changed as many in-between Games as it has from 2016 to 2021. However, in the years following the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, lots of political changes took place:

  • The abolishment of the Apartheid in South Africa;
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany;
  • The reunification of North and South Yemen;
  • The dismantling of the Soviet Union into 15 separate countries;

All of these political changes also affected the Olympic Games.

Fresh Faces in New Places

The ex-USSR Republics of Estonia and Latvia participated as independent countries for the first time since 1936. Lithuania sent its first team since 1928.

The remaining 12 former Soviet Republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan participated as a “Unified Team”, with 475 (310 men and 165 women) participants competing in 27 sports.

The team was nicknamed the “Commonwealth of Independent States,” although the winners were honored under the flags and anthems of their own republics.

The “Unified Team” finished first in the medal rankings, beating its biggest rival, the USA, one last time.

They won 45 gold medals (to the Americans’ 37), and 112 medals overall (to the Americans’ 108).

The Winter Olympics

A smaller version of the “Unified Team” finished runner-up in the medal rankings at the Winter Games, in Albertville, France, earlier that year.

The team, comprised of athletes from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Armenia, won 23 medals (nine gold), just three short of the then-unified Germany team.

1992 was the last time the Summer and Winter Olympics were held in the same year.

In the next Winter Olympics, in 1994, the former Soviet States competed independently for the first time.

Other facts about the 1992 Olympic Games:

  • These were the Games of breakups and reunions: Yemen competed for the first time as a united country; Germany competed as one country for the first time since 1964.
  • Besides Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, other former communist countries like Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia made their Olympic debuts.
  • Due to United Nations (UN) sanctions, Yugoslavian athletes were not allowed to participate. However, some individual athletes from Serbia and Montenegro competed under the Olympic Flag as independent participants.
  • They were the first Games held since the end of the Cold War.
  • They were the first non-boycotted Olympics since 1972.
  • With the end of the Apartheid, South Africa was re-invited to the Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), participating with a racially integrated team.
  • The list of sports now included baseball, badminton, and women’s judo.
  • The Games were marked by an increasing presence of professional athletes, most notably the American Basketball team – “The Dream Team”. However, the distribution of medals remained fairly balanced.
  • The Belarusian gymnast Vitaly Shcherba put on a dominant display, winning five of her seven performances.

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