The second 1988 Seoul film, Hand in Hand, is directed by Im Kwon-tae, a well-known filmmaker who had, coincidentally, already directed 88 films. This is a fascinating film that addresses the political background of the Games and provides some context to the sports that are included in the Olympics. It begins with images of the barbed wire fence dividing South Korea and North Korea, while the narrator reminds us that the Olympics is the world’s biggest peace festival.
During the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony, Im provides a running list of those nations that boycotted the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. The narrator says, “The Olympics, at times, have been tainted by the political interests of the powerful countries going against the people’s desire to overcome ideological differences by participating in games as one.” There follows a list of nations that refused to boycott the Moscow Olympics and the Los Angeles Olympics.
A colorful flyover segues into airplanes dropping bombs during the Korean War and back to parachutists descending onto the field at the Opening Ceremony.
In a section titled “From War to Peace,” Im calls attention to those Olympic sports that have their origins in war: javelin throwing, archery, fencing, shooting and taekwondo. Later in the film, he adds the high jump. He might as well have added modern pentathlon, wrestling and boxing.
Im continues the theme of superpower hostilities by presenting the semifinal men’s basketball match between the Soviet Union and the United States, their first encounter since the controversial 1972 final. The Soviets win the match 82-76, thanks in great part to the rebounding and scoring skills of Arvidas Sabonis. Im points out that Sabonis was able to compete because of medical treatment he received in the United States for an Achilles’ tendon rupture. He then quotes U.S. coach John Thompson as saying, “To treat Sabonis is to profit the enemy.”
There are some noteworthy additions to the film. There is a montage of false starts in swimming and track. The section on Ben Johnson’s doping disqualification is followed by video of three weightlifters who lost their medals for doping violations. The Kenyan domination of men’s running events from 800 meters to 5,000 meters is referred to as the “Sudden Wind.” In Lee Kwang-soo’s film, Seoul 1988, he refers to the same phenomenon as “a Kenyan storm raged.”
The narrator calls cycling “a dull sport”. During the match sprint, in which the contestants slow down and even stop in order to gain a strategic advantage, Im cuts to children in the stands sleeping.
Table tennis, included in the Olympic program for the first time, is dominated by China and South Korea to such an extent that the men’s final is contested by two South Koreans and the women’s final by two Chinese. Consequently, the coaches’ chairs remain empty as the South Korean and Chinese coaches, respectively, watch from the stands. The narrator asks if the two countries’ dominance in table tennis might be due to their tradition of using chopsticks.
In his coverage of boxing, Im incorrectly claims that boxing was not part of the ancient Olympics. He shows several knockouts and then focuses on the controversial second round match between Byun Jong-il of South Korea and Aleksandar Khristov of Bulgaria. New Zealand referee Keith Walker repeatedly warns Byun against head butting and finally penalizes him two points, which gives the victory to Khristov. South Korean boxing officials and security guards jump into the ring and physically assault Walker. Im gives this section the title “The Limits of Human Judgment.” It is unclear whether he is referring to the referee penalizes Byun or to the violent attacks by South Koreans against him. Byun then stages a sit-down strike in the ring, which, although it is not mentioned in the film, lasted 67 minutes, breaking the Olympic sit-down protest record of 51 minutes set by another South Korean boxer, Choh Dong-kih, in 1964.
Im also calls attention to Sheila Wager of the United States, the first woman to referee an Olympic wrestling match.
Among the other section titles are “Feast for Eyes?’ for rhythmic gymnastics and “Fairies under the Moonlight” for synchronized swimming.
We are shown a montage of medal ceremonies for which the athletes from a single nation swept the medals.
Im’s coverage of the marathon includes an interview with 48-year-old Lourdes Klitzkie of Guam, who took up marathon running to counter boredom. Of the 64 women who completed the marathon course, Klitzkie placed 63rd…ahead of another runner from Guam. Im also shows us an African male runner forced to drop out and being led to an ambulance. When the doors open, he is greeted with smiles by other runners who were also unable to complete the course because of injury or heat fatigue.