Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Date Started: September 18, 1988
Date Finished: September 25, 1988
Participants: 633 (381 men and 252 women) from 77 countries
Youngest Participant: Nádia Cruz (13 years, 74 days)
Oldest Participant: Maggie Kelly-Hohmann (32 years, 2 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): Matt Biondi (7 medals)
Most Medals (Country): East Germany (28 medals)
Although no one knew it at the time this was to be the last hurrah from one of the most dominant, if controversial, sports programmes of all time. East German participation went out with a bang as, led by the unbeatable Kristin Otto, their women's team gained more medals than any other nation gained when combining the achievements of both sexes. Otto won six gold medals at the Games to set a women's record for any sport at a single Olympics. In Seoul Otto uniquely won gold medals in three different strokes, freestyle, backstroke and butterfly.
The male equivalent of Otto was America's Matt Biondi. His attempt to duplicate Mark Spitz's Munich performance of seven gold medals foundered but he still managed to win five Olympic titles, a silver and a bronze. One of Biondi's victories came in the 50 metres freestyle – an event newly introduced into the games for both men and women. Another American swimmer to make waves in 1988 was Janet Evans who took three individual events and set a world record in the 400 metre freestyle.
The small Hungarian team led by Tamás Darnyi fared well to place third in the swimming medal table but even more remarkable was the performance of the one man team from Suriname. That man, Anthony Nesty, was the swimmer who derailed Biondi's attempt at seven golds by recording an upset victory in the 100 metres butterfly by the minimum possible margin of 0.01 of a second.
A popular victory was that achieved by the veteran Soviet Vladimir Salnikov in the 1500 metres freestyle. Salnikov had been one of the outstanding swimmers of the Moscow Games but had his chance at retaining his titles ruined by the Eastern Bloc boycott of 1984. Thought to be in decline, he produced one final great swim to regain the title he had won in 1980. Later, when he walked into the Olympic food hall for a meal, his fellow competitors rose to applaud him.