Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Date Started: September 25, 1988
Date Finished: September 25, 1988
Participants: 243 (243 men and 0 women) from 69 countries
Youngest Participant: Kamil Sabali (18 years, 157 days)
Oldest Participant: Viliame Takayawa (39 years, 222 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 28 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): Soviet Union (5 medals)
Although judo was developed in Japan, it is hugely popular in Korea, where it is considered second only to taekwondo as a national sport. The sport was conducted at the Changchung Gymnasium, which was right in the center of Seoul. It was next to the Shilla Hotel, the main IOC Hotel, so security was very tight. It was felt to be the best Olympic judo venue to that date. The Korean judo fans gave the events a festive atmosphere, with a traditional Korean band with drums and flutes leading cheerleaders, which gave the judo venue a raucous feeling throughout. The Olympic Program was also slightly different, with the Open Class having been dropped from the program, although it continues to be contested at the World Championships.
Another addition in 1988 was that women contested a demonstration tournament, with the same seven classes as the men. Women had first competed in World Championships in 1980 and there was support for women’s judo to be added to the Olympic Games. The demonstration tournament convinced the IOC and from 1992 onwards, women have competed in judo at the Olympics as a full medal sport. One athlete who competed in the demonstration was Belgium’s [Ingrid Berghmans], often considered the greatest ever female judoka. Between 1980 and 1989, Berghmans won six world titles and 11 medals at the World Championships. She was unfortunate that Olympic judo was never available to her as a medal sport, but in Seoul she easily won the half-heavyweight division.