On 25th July 1992 the Olympic Games opened in the Spanish city of Barcelona with all countries present for the first time in modern history! A record 169 nations took part in the opening ceremony because of the extraordinary political changes since the last Olympic Games at Seoul in 1988. Also it was the first Olympiad since 1972 that no country boycotted the Games and all bans were lifted.
The opening ceremony began with the lighting of the Olympic Flame with a flaming arrow fired by paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo. The spectacle included a staging of the mythical birth of Barcelona from the sea which included ocean battles between sea monsters and humans.
Opera stars Placido Domingo and Jose Carerras performed at the massive neo-classical Olympic Stadium at Montjuic but the crowd saved their loudest appreciation for Montserrat Caballe‘s performance of the anthem of the Games: the song Barcelona, written by Queen singer Freddie Mercury who died from Aids in 1991.
There were some new flags in the opening ceremony parade:
- Latvia and Estonia made their first independent appearance since 1936 after breaking free of Soviet rule while neighbouring Lithuania fielded its first national team since 1928.
- The collapse of the Soviet Union created a further 12 new countries, namely the former Soviet Republics. They chose to compete as the Unified Team but at medal ceremonies the flags of the individual republics were to be raised for winning athletes.
- Germany was competing as one country for the first time since 1964 following the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
- South Africa returned to the Olympics for the first time in 32 years following the end of apartheid. ANC leader Nelson Mandela who worked hard to attain South Africa‘s re-admittance was in Barcelona to see the first South African multi-racial Olympic team parade at the opening ceremony.
- Cuba, North Korea and Ethiopia sent national teams for the first time in many years.
- The only last-minute controversy was over Yugoslavia which was subject to United Nations sanctions. In the end, it was decided that Yugoslav athletes could compete as independent Olympic participants.
- Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina each sent their own national teams.