Once the Games began in earnest, every competitor seemed grim and determined, as if every medal were worth a million bucks. The earliest finals were in the demonstration sport of taekwondo, a martial art that originated in Korea some 2,000 years ago. Naturally, the hosts overwhelmed the visitors, winning six of eight gold medals in four divisions. A startling exception occurred in the women's welterweight competition, in which 22-year-old Arlene Limas of Chicago, a senior in prelaw at DePaul, defeated Kim Ji Sook of the home team. A maverick who uses an unorthodox kicking style that baffled her opponent, Limas says that her goal is to become the mayor of the Windy City.
The first official gold medal of the Games was awarded at 11:02 a.m. on Sunday. It went to Irina Chilova of the Soviet Union, winner of the women's 10-meter air rifle event. When asked what she would do with her bonus, Chilova replied, "Any lady can always find something to do with a sum of money."
Two U.S. defending Olympic champions—the men's basketball and volleyball teams—produced first-round victories as expected. Full of pent-up fury and frustration after eight weeks of brutally intense practices under coach John Thompson, the basketball players burst free with a 97-53 drubbing of a bewildered Spanish team that was hardly the same macho bunch that got the silver medal in Los Angeles. The volleyball team came close to losing its first game to Japan. The U.S. looked uneven and uneasy as it fell behind early 11-7 but pulled out that game 15-13, and crushed the Japanese in the next two, 15-2 and 15-2. American team captain Karch Kiraly said of the Japanese, "It gets more and more difficult to hold them down. We've now beaten them 38 straight times since 1983, but streaks are made to be broken."
In gymnastics the American men, who won the team gold medal in 1984, were in 12th and last place after Sunday's compulsory events. The Soviets, with strong performances from Vladimir Artemov—he scored a perfect 10 on the parallel bars—and Dmitri Bilozerchev, the individual all-around world champion, were first.
The U.S. soccer team was a surprise, tying a strong Argentine squad in a preliminary game played in Taegu, about 200 miles southeast of Seoul. The score was 0-0 until late in the second half, when a U.S. substitute sweeper, Mike Windischmann, kicked a booming shot into the Argentine goal. Some five minutes later America's dream of victory vanished when the referee, Jamal AlSharif of Syria, called a penalty on U.S. midfielder John Harkes for tripping forward Carlos Elfaro. The crowd whistled in anger at the call, but Elfaro put the penalty kick past goalie David Vanole. Final score: 1-1.
So the Summer Games were under way at last, and from the moment the opening ceremonies began there was a sense of something rare in the Korean air. All the great powers and nearly all of the great players in the world were on the Olympic stage again. With luck nothing would transpire to darken their spotlight.