At the Barcelona Games there was almost a full turn of IOC countries with the exception of Afghanistan. Both Cuba and North Korea returned after 12 years and South Africa was welcomed back after 32, following the national government's denunciation of apartheid racial policies. A record 10,563 athletes from 172 nations gathered atthe Games of the XXV Olympiad.
The Olympic flame cauldron was lit by the Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo, who shot an arrow lit by the last torch runner into it. Rebollo deliberately overshot the cauldron; though some sources claim it was done for the safety of the spectators in fact Rebollo's arrow did not light the natural gas rising from the cauldron. This was done by a Reyes Abades technician via remote control.
This was the year the IOC threw open the gates to professional athletes after 96 years of opposition. The amateur rule, which had plagued athletes and officials alike since the beginning of the Olympic Games, was finally overturned in 1986. It was now up to individual sports groups to determine whether or not "professionals" should be allowed to compete in the Olympics. This new rule allowed tennis to return to the Olympic Games, not having appeared since 1924 when it was eliminated because of professional/amateur difficulties.
The mascot for Barcelona was Cobi the sheepdog. The Cubist-inspired Catalan Sheepdog was very Picassoesque and proved to be the more commercially successful mascot to date.
Carl Lewis earned his seventh and eighth career gold medals with a third consecutive Olympic win in the long jump, and an anchor-leg performance on the American 4x100-meter relay team that helped establish a world record.
Gail Devers of the U.S., whose feet had nearly been amputated by doctors in 1990 as a result of radiation treatment for Graves' disease, won the women's 100 meters.
Hassiba Boulmerka (Algeria) was a middle distance runner who had many problems training prior to competition because she was frequently stoned and spat on by fundamentalist men who considered it an affront for a woman to run with bare legs. Fortunately she persevered and won gold in the women’s 1500 m run.
The United States send the "Dream Team," a basketball team made up of a number of the most famous U.S. professional basketball players, to the Olympics. The original Dream Team, the U.S. basketball team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, was a phenomenon on and off the court. It mattered not that it dominated the Olympic competition, beating its eight opponents by an average of 44 points. What was important was that the Dream Team, the first U.S. Olympic team to include NBA stars, gave fans a glimpse of basketball at its finest, and an entire world responded.
Despite Reebok being the official sponsor, Nike sponsored the US basketball team (Dream Team) during the ceremonies the players covered up or turned down their collars to hide their Reebok logos. The Nike name and logo was eventually banished to the corner and off the uniforms worn by a Michael Jordan. The same fate befell pole-vaulter, Sergei Bubka (Soviet Union).