Sodoma and Gomorra, pt. 2

Seoul is collocated by the sea, and it is changing rapidly. On 1988 and the city which hosted the Summer Olympics, is not yet the Korean capital, at least not officially, but it is the most populous center of the whole peninsula and its Stock Exchange is an important commercial hub of the Far East. The war has been over for nearly 40 years, but his wounds are still evident between the steel and glass skyscrapers that are born in the town. The Seoul Olympic Stadium is located in Songpa District and lies on the banks of the Han River; It is the end of September and the humidity is not as stifling as in July, but you still feel for the nearly eighty thousand spectators crowding the steps of the stadium.

Maple and eagles

On the running track there are two African Americans who stand out among the other finalists of the Olympic 100-meter dash. One of them has set the new world record a year before, in Rome, stopping the clock at 9/2 and 83/10. The other is “The son of the wind”, the Carl Lewis in the coming years will dominate the world thanks to its speed. One wearing the uniform of the US representative, red flag with stars and stripes on the chest; the other dresses also red, but instead of the USA flag stands the maple leaf, a symbol of the glorious Canada. He was born in Jamaica but was naturalized after moving in 1976 with his family. His name is Ben Johnson, and in recent years has been collecting record and medals wherever he was. The race gets high expectations, everyone is talking about it and the gunshot is preceded by a palpable tension. The silence becomes an impenetrable wall, no one speaks, all eyes are on the 8-lane. The shot marks the beginning of the story, Johnson detaches immediately all other athletes and is presented to the finish line with his arm raised and finger outstretched to the sky: 9/2 and 79/10.

The dirtiest race ever

9 seconds and 79 tenths. Time enough for him to cover 100 meters. Ben Johnson at the end of the race, while performing his lap of honor, enjoys the applause of an audience in ecstasy. “The demigod Hercules” take their revenge on Lewis, the rival, that had accused him of having used drugs, of Pepsi, Coca-Cola, American Express and all those sponsors who had rejected him because he was considered the “vain and self-centered”. After medical visits a urine sample reveals that he is positively detected by the anti-doping commission.


Clearly the story has the aftermath: Johnson returns to Toronto in utter humiliation, he was stripped of his gold medal and awarded to Lewis, while the media and the public devastated him for using steroids. Like many things in life, this race should be reconsidered with a cool head, with all the data at their disposal and when it was made clear to the end. 8 of those demigods who presented the Olympic appointment of the late summer of 1988, at least 6 of them had had, or will have in the future, problems with the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and among these also the son of the wind. Still, Johnson was the only one whom record was delate from the IAAF, along with the one of 1987, which was also obtained under the influence of steroids. In his autobiography, published in 2016, the Canadian tells how in 1981 his coach Charlie Francis had persuaded to improve their performance through a cycle of Stanozolol, a steroid that would help him to become the divine that he had always dreamed of since he was 16 years old. Furthermore the reasons were understandable: everyone uses it, why he wouldn’t’ had?.

Nineteen years after that race which has remained in the collective imagination, Diadora and Patta have dedicated a collaboration.


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