1968 Summer Olympics

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Games of the XIX Olympiad
1968 Mexico emblem.svg
Host city Mexico City, Mexico
Nations participating 112
Athletes participating 5,516
(4,735 men, 781 women)
Events 172 in 18 sports
Opening ceremony October 12
Closing ceremony 27 October
Officially opened by President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz
Athlete's Oath Pablo Garrido
Olympic Torch Norma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo
Stadium Estadio Olímpico Universitario

The 1968 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIX Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Mexico City, Mexico, in October 1968.

These were the first Olympic Games to be staged in Latin America and the first to be staged in a Spanish-speaking country. They were also the third Games to be held in autumn, after the 1956 Games in Melbourne and the 1964 Games in Tokyo. The Mexican Student Movement of 1968 happened concurrently and the Olympic Games were correlated to the government's repression.

Host city selection[edit]

Opening of the 1968 Summer Olympic Games at the Estadio Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City

On October 18, 1963, at the 60th IOC Session in Baden-Baden, West Germany, Mexico City finished ahead of bids from Detroit, Buenos Aires and Lyon to host the Games.[1]

1968 Summer Olympics bidding result[2]
City Country Round 1
Mexico City  Mexico 30
Detroit  United States 14
Lyon  France 12
Buenos Aires  Argentina 2

Olympic torch relay[edit]

The 1968 torch relay recreated the route taken by Christopher Columbus to the New World, journeying from Greece through Italy and Spain (including Barcelona, which hosted the 1992 Summer Games) to San Salvador Island, Bahamas and then on to Mexico.

American sculptor James Metcalf, an expatriate in Mexico, won the commission to forge the Olympic torch for the 1968 Summer Games.[3]

Highlights[edit]

  • In the medal award ceremony for the men's 200 meter race, black American athletes Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (bronze) took a stand for civil rights by raising their black-gloved fists and wearing black socks in lieu of shoes. The Australian Peter Norman, who had run second, wore an American "civil rights" badge as support to them on the podium. As punishment, the IOC banned Smith and Carlos from the Olympic Games for life, and Norman was left off Australia's Olympic team in 1972.
  • American (and future professional world's champion) George Foreman won the gold medal for boxing (Heavyweight Division) by defeating Soviet Ionas Chepulis via a second round TKO. After the victory, Foreman waved a small American flag as he bowed to the crowd.
  • The high elevation of Mexico City, at 2,240 m (7,350 ft) above sea level, influenced many of the events, particularly in track and field. No Summer Olympic Games before or since have been held at high elevation. Although a performance reducer for endurance athletes, the thin air contributed to many record-setting jumps, leaps, vaults, and throws, as well as all of the men's track events of 400 meters and less. As a reminder of this fact, one of the promotional articles of these Olympics was a small metallic box labeled "Aire de México" (Air of Mexico), that was "Especial para batir récords" (Special for breaking records).
  • In addition to high elevation, this was the first Olympics to use a synthetic all-weather surface for track and field events; the "Tartan" surface was originally developed by 3M for horse racing, but didn't catch on. The tracks at previous Olympics were conventional cinder.
  • For the first time, East and West Germany competed as separate teams, after being forced by the IOC to compete as a combined German team in 1956, 1960, and 1964. Beethoven's Ode to Joy was played when East and West Germany arrived in the stadium.
  • Al Oerter of the U.S. won his fourth consecutive gold medal in the discus to become only the second athlete to achieve this feat in an individual event, and the first in track & field (athletics).
  • Bob Beamon of the U.S. leapt 8.90 m (29.2 ft) in the long jump, an incredible 55 cm (22 in) improvement over the previous world record. It remains the Olympic record and stood as the world record for 23 years, until broken by American Mike Powell in 1991. American athletes Jim Hines, Tommie Smith and Lee Evans also set long-standing world records in the 100 m, 200 m and 400 m, respectively.
  • In the triple jump, the previous world record was improved five times by three different athletes. Viktor Saneev won the first of three successive gold medals in this event. He won silver in 1980.
  • Dick Fosbury of the U.S. won the gold medal in the high jump using his unconventional Fosbury flop technique, which quickly became the dominant technique in the event.
  • Věra Čáslavská of Czechoslovakia won four gold medals in gymnastics.
  • Debbie Meyer of the U.S. became the first swimmer to win three individual gold medals, in the 200, 400 and 800 m freestyle events. The 800 m was a new long-distance event for women. Meyer was only 16 years old, a student at Rio Americano High School in Sacramento, California. Meyer was the first of several American teenagers to win the 800 m.
  • American swimmer Charlie Hickcox won three gold medals (200m IM, 400m IM, 4x100m medley relay) and one silver medal (100m backstroke).
  • The introduction of doping tests resulted in the first disqualification because of doping: Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall was disqualified for alcohol use (he drank several beers just prior to competing).
  • John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania became internationally famous after finishing the marathon, in last place, despite a dislocated knee.
  • This was the first of three Olympic participations by Jacques Rogge. He competed in yachting and would later become the eighth president of the IOC.
  • Norma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo of Mexico became the first woman to light the Olympic cauldron with the Olympic flame.
  • It was the first games at which there was a significant African presence in men's distance running. Africans won at least one medal in all running events from 800 meters to the marathon, and in so doing they set a trend for future games. Most of these runners came from high-altitude areas of countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, and they were well-prepared for the 2240 m elevation of Mexico City.
  • It was the first Olympic games in which the closing ceremony was transmitted in color to the world.

Controversies[edit]

South Africa[edit]

South Africa was provisionally invited to the Games, on the understanding that all segregation and discrimination in sport would be eliminated by the 1972 Games. However, African countries and black American athletes promised to boycott the Games if South Africa was present, and Eastern Bloc countries threatened to do likewise. In April 1968 the IOC conceded that "it would be most unwise for South Africa to participate".[4]

Tlatelolco massacre[edit]

Main article: Tlatelolco massacre

Responding to growing social unrest and protests, the government of Mexico had increased economic and political suppression, against labor unions in particular, in the decade building up to the Olympics. A series of protest marches in the city in August gathered significant attendance, with an estimated 500,000 taking part on August 27. President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz ordered the occupation of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in September, but protests continued. Using the prominence brought by the Olympics, students gathered in Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco to call for greater civil and democratic rights and showed disdain for the Olympics with slogans such as ¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución! ("We don't want Olympics, we want revolution!").[5][6]

Ten days before the start of the Olympics, the government ordered the gathering in Plaza de las Tres Culturas to be broken up. Some 5000 soldiers and 200 tankettes surrounded the plaza. Dozens of protesters and civilians were killed and over 1000 were arrested. At the time, the event was portrayed in the national media as the military suppression of a violent student uprising, but later analysis indicates that the gathering was peaceful prior to the army's advance.[7][8][9]

Black Power salute[edit]

On October 16, 1968, black sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the gold and bronze medalists in the men's 200-meter race, took their places on the podium for the medal ceremony wearing black socks without shoes and civil rights badges, lowered their heads and each defiantly raised a black-gloved fist as the Star Spangled Banner was played. Both of them were members of the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

Some people (particularly IOC president Avery Brundage) felt that a political statement had no place in the international forum of the Olympic Games. In an immediate response to their actions, Smith and Carlos were suspended from the U.S. team by Brundage and banned from the Olympic Village. Those who opposed the protest said the actions disgraced all Americans. Supporters, on the other hand, praised the men for their bravery.

Peter Norman, the Australian sprinter who came second in the 200 m race, and Martin Jellinghaus, a member of the German bronze medal-winning 4x400-meter relay team, also wore Olympic Project for Human Rights badges at the games to show support for the suspended American sprinters. He did not salute with them, but he did suggest the black gloves to the other sprinters.[10] Norman's actions resulted in a reprimand, his absence from the following Olympic Games in Munich (despite easily making the qualifying time) and a failure of his national association to invite him to join other Australian medallists at the opening ceremony for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. This picture caused him to fall into substance abuse depression because the picture ruined his career.[10][unreliable source?] and Smith and Carlos acted as pallbearers at his funeral in 2006 [1][2].

Věra Čáslavská[edit]

In another incident, while standing on the medal podium after the balance beam event final where Natalia Kuchinskaya of the Soviet Union had controversially taken the Gold, Czechoslovakian gymnast Věra Čáslavská quietly turned her head down and away during the playing of the Soviet national anthem. The action was Čáslavská's silent protest against the recent Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and was repeated when she accepted her medal for her floor exercise routine when the judges changed the preliminary scores of the Soviet Larisa Petrik to tie with Čáslavská. While Čáslavská's countrymen supported her actions and her outspoken opposition to Communism (she had publicly signed and supported Ludvik Vaculik's "Two Thousand Words" manifesto), the new regime responded by banning her from both sporting events and international travel for many years and made her an outcast from society.

Venues[edit]

Medals awarded[edit]

The 1968 Summer Olympic programme featured 172 events in the following 18 sports:

Demonstration sports[edit]

The organizers declined to hold a judo tournament at the Olympics, even though it had been a full-medal sport four years earlier. This was the last time judo was not included in the Olympic games.

Calendar[edit]

All dates are in Central Time Zone (UTC-6)
 ●  Opening ceremony     Event competitions  ●  Event finals  ●  Closing ceremony
Date October
12th
Sat
13th
Sun
14th
Mon
15th
Tue
16th
Wed
17th
Thu
18th
Fri
19th
Sat
20th
Sun
21st
Mon
22nd
Tue
23rd
Wed
24th
Thu
25th
Fri
26th
Sat
27th
Sun
Athletics





Basketball
Boxing

Canoeing
Cycling
Diving
Equestrian
Fencing
Field hockey
Football (soccer)
Gymnastics

Modern pentathlon
Rowing
Sailing
Shooting
Swimming







Volleyball
Water polo
Weightlifting
Wrestling

Total gold medals 2 5 6 9 13 10 17 20 14 5 12 8 16 34 1
Ceremonies
Date 12th
Sat
13th
Sun
14th
Mon
15th
Tue
16th
Wed
17th
Thu
18th
Fri
19th
Sat
20th
Sun
21st
Mon
22nd
Tue
23rd
Wed
24th
Thu
25th
Fri
26th
Sat
27th
Sun
October

Participating National Olympic Committees[edit]

Participants
Number of athletes per country

East Germany and West Germany competed as separate entities for the first time in at a Summer Olympiad, and would remain so through 1988. Barbados competed for the first time as an independent country. Also competing for the first time in a Summer Olympiad were British Honduras (now Belize), Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo (as Congo-Kinshasa), El Salvador, Guinea, Honduras, Kuwait, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Sierra Leone, and the United States Virgin Islands. Singapore returned to the Games as an independent country after competing as part of the Malaysian team in 1964.

Participating National Olympic Committees

Boycotting countries[edit]

North Korea withdrew its athletes from Cuba immediately prior to the beginning of the Olympics when the IOC refused to refer to the country by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK.[citation needed]

Medal count[edit]

These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1968 Games. Host Mexico won 3 of each color of medal.

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 United States 45 28 34 107
2 Soviet Union 29 32 30 91
3 Japan 11 7 7 25
4 Hungary 10 10 12 32
5 East Germany 9 9 7 25
6 France 7 3 5 15
7 Czechoslovakia 7 2 4 13
8 West Germany 5 11 10 26
9 Australia 5 7 5 17
10 Great Britain 5 5 3 13
15 Mexico (host nation) 3 3 3 9

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ IOC Vote History
  2. ^ "Past Olympic host city election results". GamesBids. Archived from the original on 17 March 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Dannatt, Adrian (2012-02-17). "James Metcalf: US sculptor who led a community of artists and artisans in Mexico". The Independent. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  4. ^ Espy, Richard (1981). The Politics of the Olympic Games: With an Epilogue, 1976-1980. University of California Press. pp. 125–8. ISBN 9780520043954. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  5. ^ México 1968: Las Olimpiadas 10 días después de la matanza. ADN Politico (2012-08-08). Retrieved on 2013-07-03.
  6. ^ 1968: Student riots threaten Mexico Olympics. BBC Sport. Retrieved on 2013-07-03.
  7. ^ Werner, Michael S., ed. Encyclopedia of Mexico: History, Society & Culture. Vol. 2 Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.
  8. ^ Mexican students protest for greater democracy, 1968. Global Non-Violent Action Database. Retrieved on 2013-07-03.
  9. ^ The Dead of Tlatelolco. The National Security Archive. Retrieved on 2013-07-03.
  10. ^ a b http://www.cracked.com/article_20513_6-images-that-ruined-lives-people-they-made-famous.html
Sources

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Tokyo
Summer Olympic Games
Mexico City

XIX Olympiad (1968)
Succeeded by
Munich