Juan Antonio Samaranch considered the Olympic Games to be "the biggest and most important event" in the world. Tennis was a medal sport at the Olympics in 1896 until 1924. In 1988, tennis returned as part of the Olympic 26 programs in the summer games. Willi Daume told the press, "Officials and players I talked with agreed that the Olympic tennis tournament would be the No. 1 in the world. They see the Olympic tennis tournament above Wimbledon and the Davis Cup." Whereas the Grand Slam events, the men's Davis Cup and the women's Federation Cup were played every year, the Olympic Games were held once every 4 years. "By 1996, the Grand Slam will mean Wimbledon, U.S., the French and Australian Opens and the Olympic gold medal," it was predicted in 1988. Chris Evert added, "I really do think the Olympics can be as big or even bigger in the future than the 4 Grand Slam tournaments. Tennis has been very successful on its own. As one of a multitude of sports, it could become spectacular." 

In May 1987, the International Olympic Committee unanimously approved (by consensus without a vote) the eligibility of tennis as a medal sport alongside other sports such as track and field, gymnastics, swimming, cycling, hockey, basketball. Philippe Chatrier made known, "I admit that right up to the last minute, I was worried. The idea of professionals competing at the Olympics is revolutionary but I always had confidence in Juan Antonio Samaranch. The IOC decision was taken with good sense and honesty." 

On reflection, Robert Helmick of the U.S. Olympic Committee remarked, "It was predictable this was going to go through after being recommended by the Executive Board. It is not a dramatic shift because we have had professionals in Olympic Games for some time. But tennis is a large jump, it is a fully integrated sport drawing together amateurs and professionals." Juan Antonio Samaranch told 'United Press International' in 1986, "We decided in Baden-Baden (in Germany in 1981) to let the International Sports Federations decide their own eligibility rules, subject to IOC approval. So people like (John) McEnroe and Boris Becker can compete, providing they are under the control of recognized national and international federations." 

Philippe Chatrier told the press, "I have put in 10 years of my life in an effort to get tennis back in the Games, for one reason only: To foster the game of tennis worldwide. In many countries, if you are not an Olympic sport, you do not get any help from the government. Why can't everyone simply be open and honest about the natural development of professionalism in sport and stop living such a lie? I wanted the tennis players to rub shoulders with (Edwin) Moses, Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis, top athletes making money. It is the most important thing to happen to tennis since the Open movement (in 1968). 

"80% of the governments in the world will not support a sport unless it is in the Olympic Games. This will put those governments behind tennis, add to the boom. The older generation don't really understand what the Olympics mean. They have been programed and grown up worshipping the Grand Slam and suddenly something is put in their laps and they don't know what it means. I don't think the importance of the Games have sunk in yet. 

"For (Stefan) Edberg and Steffi Graf it has, because they have tasted it in Los Angeles (1984, exhibition sport). They understand the importance of the thing and I think the rest of the younger generation will put the Olympics on top of the list 4 years from now (16-year-old Jennifer Capriati won the Gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games)." Steffi Graf conceded, "In a way I feel I have a debt to pay. I suppose you could say Los Angeles is where I had my first major breakthrough. What I enjoyed in the Los Angeles Olympics was the different scene in the village. It was easy to talk to the athletes."

In 1988, the men's draw comprised 64 players and the women's draw comprised 32 players. Nancy Jeffett admitted, "It was hard (selecting the team). Sports like track and swimming have specific Olympic trials to select a squad. There is no guesswork. But it was unrealistic for us to have Olympic trials because of the number of events on the current pro tour."

Players won medals (gold, silver and bronze) at the 1988 Olympics included Steffi Graf, Stefan Edberg and Pam Shriver. Pam remembered, "There was an unbelievable atmosphere and so much fun. Every day was a new adventure and the whole thing rubbed off on me. Since then (in September 1988) I have had a great 3 or 4 weeks (of tennis) and last week I won an event in Zurich. As tennis players on the circuit, we have so many big events to go for. Then you see those athletes and realize that they get their big event every 4 years."

Of staying in the athletes village, Chris recalled, "It's a real learning experience. I'm used to room service in the mornings and hotel suites. But here everyone is equal. No one is on a pedestal. It's not extravagant but it's comfortable and as long as we get decent sleep, good food and plenty of practise time, it's fine." Stefan Edberg said, "To be part of the Olympics is very nice. I enjoy meeting the other athletes. Living the village life is different. You can't get room service here. But you stay with your teammates, too, which is a lot of fun." Brad Gilbert acknowledged, "It's been a learning experience, meeting all the other athletes and finding out what they go through. For some of these people, this is the one time they can shine and the pressure's on them."

In 2012, Steffi told Mark Hodgkinson of the International Tennis Federation, "Winning the Olympic gold medal is a different experience to winning a Grand Slam, and I have to say that I rate it higher, I really do . . . I have so many different memories from 1988 and could go through all the matches at the Grand Slams, but arriving in Seoul, and being part of that Olympic feeling, and being in the village, and being with the other athletes, that was very special. Those are probably my strongest memories." 

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