The ultimate disaster in British sport eventually happened at Hillsbrough on a beautiful spring Saturday. It was April 15, FA Cup semi-final day, Liverpool v Nottingham Forest. Although the disasters at Ibrox in 1971 and at Bradford and Heysel in 1985 should have shocked football into taking responsibility and new initiatives for crowd safety and security, they had’nt.
So between 2.30pm and 3.06pm more than 1,000 policemen, the administrators of the FA and of Sheffield Wednesday watched as 95 supporters, including women and children, needlessly died. Some 53,000 people had come to watch a football match, but instead of arriving at a place of entertainment and drama they streamed into a death-trap.
Hillsborough, like most major stadiums, was now a place that imprisoned the paying spectators by fencing them in. Stewards and police saw all spectators as potential hooligans. Thus it was that a series of police blunders at the Leppings Lane end meant that 95 people were crushed to death. On the day of Hillsborough, The Sunday Times said “Despite disaster after disaster, nothing seems to shake the complacency and incompetence of those who run the country’s most popular sport”.
Alain Prost won the world championship in the Japanese Grand Prix on October 22, when his McLaren-Honda teammate Ayrton Senna collided with him and was assisted in restarting his car. Prost immediately retired after the shunt.
Senna however, crossed the finishing line in first position, had illegally re-entered the track and was therefore disqualified. The incident came five laps from the end of the race when Senna made a desperate attempt to overtake Prost. Senna needed to win in Japan and Australia to retain his world title. The bad blood between the two drivers had been such they had not spoken directly to each other for six months.
Celtic announced on May 12 that they had agreed to pay Nantes £1.2 million for Mo Johnston. It was the first step in a convoluted transfer saga that would end in bitterness and divide Glasgow. On the 29th the deal had apparently fallen through. However, four weeks later, the FIFA general secretary Sepp Blatter, said he had scrutinized the case and that Johnston should be a Celtic player from July 1.
Johnston maintained he had not signed a contract. Then on July 10, the sky fell in. To a stunned Glasgow, Graeme Souness paraded his latest signing, Johnston. Not only had Souness snatched him from under Celtic’s nose, he had finally signed a Catholic. The Rangers bigots branded Souness a traitor, and the wags said that the only shock was that Johnston was not English into the bargain.
GOLF - Nancy Lopez, who won her first US LPGA title at the age of 21 in 1978, came back to win her third title 11 years later.
POLO - The United States beat Britain 7-6 in the final of the inaugural world championship in west Berlin.
Eight different players won the eight Grand Slam titles for the first time since 1966. But there was one familiar name among the cast of champions: Martina Navratilova. She won a record ninth Wimbledon crown eclipsing Helen Wills Moody’s tally with 6-4,6-1 victory against Zena Garrison in 75 minutes.
It was a memorable triumph for the 33 year-old Navratilova, who had been under pressure from a troupe of teenagers through the years. The latest member of the young brigade was the prodigious Jennifer Capriati. She made her professional debut 23 days short of her 14th birthday. Capriati had set the stage for her Wimbledon debut by reaching the semi-finals in the French Open where she lost to Monica Seles. The Yugoslav aged 16 years and 6 months beat Steffi Graf 7-6, 6-4 in the final to become the youngest winner of a Grand Slam event since Lottie Dod in 1887.
Nick Faldo was the best golfer in the world. Everybody knew that except the computer that produced the rankings each week. Now he had an opportunity to change even the computers mind. Faldo and Greg Norman were level half way through the Open at St. Andrews. Many hoped it would match the memorable showdown between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson at Turnberry in 1982. Alas, it was not to be so.
Faldo had six birdies and one dropped shot in a third round of 67. Norman shot 76 and the contest was over. Faldo charged to a five shot victory on July 22 to add to his Masters and become only the sixth player to win the Masters and the Open in the same year. The computer took another seven weeks before it recognized Faldo as the world’s leading player. Faldo had become only the second player after Jack Nicklaus to retain the Masters on April 8. But his hopes of the illusive Grand Slam were left on the lip of the cup at the final hole in the US Open when he missed a put and the play-off by one shot
Iron Mike Tyson finally met his comeuppance in Tokyo when he was knocked out by Buster Douglas in the 10th round. It was the biggest upset since Leon Spinks overturned Muhammed Ali. February 11 will go down as the day that the myth of the invincible Tyson was destroyed. When Tyson the undisputed world heavyweight champion, had to battle with a journeyman pro who was prepared to take the fight to him, Tyson showed he did not have the metal.
Tyson’s chaotic almost self-destructive, lifestyle contributed to his downfall. His failed marriage to Robin Givens, his discharging of all the people who had guided him in his formative years, and his relationship with Don King all helped. It was King who made the 23 year old champion’s demise even more of a nadir when he claimed that the ‘long count’ in the eighth round, when the referee started the count later after Tyson had knocked Douglas down, nullified the result.
Douglas’s reign was short-lived. On October 26 he lost the title in his first defence to Evander Holyfield in the third round. But Douglas did pick up $24 million.
Sugar Ray Leonard looked all of his 34 years when he struggled to cope with Terry Norris, 10 years his junior, in Madison Square Garden on February 10. Leonard who was challenging the WBC super-middleweight champion. Took a beating, lost on points and retired again. This time it looked as if it was for good. “My son said I was an old man, and he was right” Leonard said. “I want to do what I planned to do a long time ago, take golf lessons”.
Leonard’s record was extraordinary: five world titles spanning nine years and 21lb across the different weight divisions. In that decade Leonard met the best and stopped them all. His victims included Marvellous Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Wilfredo Benitez. But despite his remarkable fighting ability there was always a question mark over Leonard the man.
Many disliked his taunting of Hagler and the way he forced Hearns to wait eight years for a rematch, and saw him as a strutting poseur who bent the rules Thus when Leonard wanted to fight for the light-heavyweight title, and make history, he forced the holder, Donny Lalonde to box at 12st instead of 12st11lb and won.
It took an act of cheating to win the second World Cup. David Campese, the Australian wing, broke the laws of Rugby Union to deny England a try in the final at Twickenham in November. The Australians won 12 - 6 with a rock solid defence that had earned them a ticket to Twickenham after conceding only three tries in the tournament.
England, who had been criticized earlier for playing conservatively, played with verve and enterprise. But a pass to Rory Underwood, which which would have left the England wing a clear run to the line, was deliberately knocked-on by Campese. The referee, Derek Bevan, awarded a penalty and not a penalty try as many believed would have been appropriate. England reached the final with close victories against France in Paris and Scotland at Murrayfield, while Australia had accounted for the defending champions New Zealand.
Mike Powell took a leap into the 21st century in Tokyo on August 30. The American jumped 8.95 metres to beat Bob Beamon’s famous record set at the Mexico Olympics 23 years and 316 days previously .Beamon’s 8.90m was so astonishing that many people thought it would last into the next century. But for 10 years and 65 long jump competitions, the unbeaten Carl Lewis had been edging closer.
To Lewis’s chagrin, the oldest record in athletics was broken at the third World championships by the unheralded Powell. Lewis had eclipsed the record before the competition, but his jump was ruled out because of wind assistance. However, Lewis did secure a place in history five days earlier, winning the fastest-ever 100m in 9.86sec in a race that produced six sub-10sec times. Britain took two gold medals, with Liz McColgan winning the 10,000 metres from the front in 31min 14.31sec and Kriss Akabusi passing the American Antonio Pettigrew down the final straight to take the 4 x 400 metres relay
A crowd of 100,000 spectators in Barcelona’s stadium plus a television audience of 2 billion watched one of the most spectacular Olympic opening ceremonies of all time.
These turned out to be the Games of the Spanish IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who had brought the Games to his Catalonian homeland.
Being an advocate of the commercialization of sport, he expressed his gratitude to the Games’ sponsors at the end of the Barcelona celebrations. The IOC registered millions of dollars in revenue from these Olympic, partly through the sale of television broadcasting rights. However, the IOC presidents’ stance was not greeted with universal approval. Many athletes complained that start times of several events were arranged to suit the TV and advertising industries. Besides the wonderful cultural activities that accompanied the Games, the modernisation and construction work carried out on sports and other facilities in key area of the city was praised
The 1992 Games were significant in that they marked the emergence or re-emergence of a number of teams onto the world sporting stage, following the recent wave of political change in Europe and elsewhere. The first appearance since 1964 of a pan-German team was greeted with pleasure. A similarly warm reception was given to South Africa which was welcomed back to the Olympic games having last competed in 1960. Despite the far-reaching upheaval in the former Soviet Union, a unified team (EUN) was again fielded by the Commonwealth of Independent States. In the Balkans meanwhile, the fight for Tito’s legacy was in process and Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovia, Slovenia and Croatia each sent their own teams.
As for the sports, there was major upsets in some of the individual events. In the woman’s 100 metres hurdles, for example, Paraskevi Patoulidou became the first Greek sportswoman to claim an Olympic gold, and in the 800 metres, Holland’s Ellen van Langen could hardly believe that she had won. There were also triumphs over adversity. Gail Devers (USA ) overcame serious illness to win the 100 metres. Only a year earlier she had been suffering from Graves’ Disease with fears of a leg amputation.
The single most successful participant at the Barcelona Olympics was the gymnast Vitali Sherbo (EUN) with six gold medals. He was followed in the medal list by swimmers Yevgeni Sadovi (EUN) and Kriztina Egerzegy (HUN) with three golds each. The subject of drugs was again on the agenda and both China and Cuba were much criticized for having refused to take part in international drugs testing prior to the Games.
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