1968 in athletics

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While the most notable story coming out of 1968 was Socio-Political,[1] politics involved with the Olympics was not something unique to this year. However, the year marked the beginning of several emerging elements of contemporary Track and Field.

Automatic timing[edit]

While timing to the 100th of a second had been experimented with for many years, the 1968 Summer Olympics were the first to use Fully Automatic Timing, in not only athletics, but in canoeing, rowing, cycling, equestrian and swimming competitions.[2] Subsequently, systems to record such times became more common[3] and thus the accuracy of Fully Automatic Timing became mandated for World Record acceptance. While this rule was officially put into place in 1977, many 1968 records still stood as the first Automatically timed record.

All weather tracks[edit]

This technology too had been developing, but Tartan tracks[4][5] were used as the competition surface for the first time at an Olympics. Since then an All-weather running track was required for all top level competition. Subsequently, the inconsistency of the running surface became a significantly smaller factor in athletic performance.[6][7]


With the Olympics happening in Mexico City, at high altitude, the effect of the thin air on athletic performance became a factor on world records. Following the 1968 Summer Olympics[8][9][10][11] the:

East Africa[edit]

1968 marked the emergence of high altitude trained long distance runners from Kenya. While Abebe Bikila's  Ethiopia victories in the two previous Olympic Marathons had announced to the world the potential of East African athletes, Kenya won its first Gold medals in Mexico City, and it won three of them, including the Steeplechase which it would subsequently claim ownership of.[12][13] Kenya has won the steeplechase in every Olympics they have participated in since 1968. Ethiopia won its third straight marathon. There has been a fierce athletic rivalry between Kenya and Ethiopia ever since, while both countries and their neighbors have dominated long distance running both on the track and on the roads.[14]

Fosbury Flop[edit]

Dick Fosbury was the first to do what is now called the "Fosbury Flop" to the High Jump. He learned to take advantage of the new foam landing pads (another technical innovation introduced in this era) by jumping over the bar backwards.[15] Canadian Debbie Brill started doing the "Brill Bend" about the same time, but Fosbury got the most exposure, winning the Olympics. The prevailing methods involved jumping forwards or sideways, styles called the Roll or "Western Roll" and previous to that, the "Scissors" style. After Fosbury's victory, the flop became almost the only style used by elite competitors.[16]

Performance Enhancing Drugs[edit]

This was the first Olympics to do drug testing, though primarily these initial searches were for narcotics and stimulants.[17]


  1. ^ http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/general/athletics-smith-puts-black-power-gold-from-1968-up-for-sale-681257.html Independent
  2. ^ http://www.olympic.org/en/content/Olympic-Games/All-Past-Olympic-Games/Summer/Mexico-1968-summer-olympics/
  3. ^ http://www.mitca.org/Clinics/TF/2009/FAT%20Information.pdf Michigan Interscholastic
  4. ^ http://www.tartan-aps.com/history.php Tartan APS
  5. ^ http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/510257192.html?dids=510257192:510257192&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Mar+06%2C+1967&author=&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&desc=Tartan+Track+Set+for+UCLA&pqatl=google LA Times
  6. ^ http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/access/584694732.html?dids=584694732:584694732&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Apr+25%2C+1969&author=&pub=Chicago+Tribune&desc=Drake+Has+Ryun%2C+New+Track&pqatl=google Chicago Tribune
  7. ^ http://www.olympic.org/en/content/Olympic-Games/All-Past-Olympic-Games/Summer/Mexico-1968-summer-olympics/
  8. ^ http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/summer/1968/ATH/ Sports Reference
  9. ^ http://www.marcolympics.org/jeux/1968/summer/athle_r.php Marco Olympics
  10. ^ http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-07-03/sports/0007030182_1_dick-fosbury-magic-mountain-high-jump-competition Chicago Tribune July 3, 2000
  11. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=-mwbAsxpRr0C&pg=PA683&lpg=PA683&dq=highest+athletic+stadium+altitude&source=bl&ots=6JoIqmN0mu&sig=PHWvjE0Mb5NpKe2uAx4zu3LioKc&hl=en&ei=UejOTIe2Dom6sQOPgqn5Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&sqi=2&ved=0CDsQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=highest%20athletic%20stadium%20altitude&f=false
  12. ^ http://www.trackandfieldnews.com/hs/coachscorner/20060228.html Track and Field News
  13. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=Kqc1SkRr9UwC&pg=PA24&lpg=PA24&source=bl&ots=2CSxFsiGDP&sig=lWVZSqT2NH7CmzZ7oPpeg4-1M8c&hl=en&ei=KUflS9-6GYLysQOZ0eXRCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBEQ6AEwADge#v=onepager&f=false Running Encyclopedia P172
  14. ^ http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-12/31/content_12733125.htm Xinhua
  15. ^ http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,712152,00.html Time
  16. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/214469/Fosbury-flop Britannica
  17. ^ http://www.olympic.org/en/content/Olympic-Games/All-Past-Olympic-Games/Summer/Mexico-1968-summer-olympics/