1968 Summer Olympics

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The 1968 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIX Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Mexico City in October 1968. The 1968 Games were the first Olympic Games hosted by a developing country, and the first Games hosted by a Spanish-speaking country (followed in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain). It is the only Games ever held in Latin America (until Rio de Janeiro hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics) and it was the second after 1964 Summer Olympics to be hosted outside of Europe, Australia, or the United States. It was also the third Olympic Games to be held in autumn, then followed by the 1988 Summer Olympics.

Contents

Selection

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.

Results of the final bid are shown below, from the International Olympic Committee Vote History web page.

Highlights

  • In the 200 m medal award ceremony, African-American athletes Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (bronze) raised their black-gloved fists as a symbol of "Black Power". The Australian Peter Norman, who had run second, wore an American "civil rights" badge as support to them on the podium. As punishment, the International Olympic Committee banned Smith and Carlos from the Olympic Games for life, and Norman was left off the Australian 1972 Olympic team.
  • The high altitude of Mexico City (2240 m) was suspected to be difficult to adjust to for many endurance athletes. No other Summer Olympic Games have been held at a location remotely as high as Mexico City. This high altitude and the thin air were also credited with contributing to many record-setting jumps and leaps in the long jump, triple jump, high jump, and pole vault events, and throwing events such as the discus throw, as well as all the men's track events of 400 meters and less. As a reminder of this fact, one of the promotional articles of these games was a little metallic box with "Aire de Mexico" (Air of Mexico), that was "Especial para batir records" (Special for breaking records).
  • For the first time, athletes from East and West Germany were members of separate teams, after having been told to compete in a combined German team in 1956, 1960, and 1964. Ode to Joy was played when East Germany and West Germany arrived to the stadium.
  • American discus thrower Al Oerter, won his fourth consecutive gold medal in that event to become only the second athlete to achieve this feat in an individual event, and the first in track & field (athletics).
  • Bob Beamon jumped 8.90 meters in the long jump, an incredible 55-centimeter improvement over the previous world record. His record would stand until 1991, when it was broken by Mike Powell (it is still the Olympic record). American athletes Jim Hines and Lee Evans also set long-standing world records in the 100 meters and 400 meters, respectively, that would last for many years to come.
  • In the triple jump, the previous world record was improved five times by three different athletes.
  • Dick Fosbury won the gold medal in the high jump using the new, radical Fosbury flop technique, which quickly became the dominant technique in the event.
  • Czechoslovakian gymnast Věra Čáslavská won four gold medals.
  • American swimmer Debbie Meyer became the first swimmer to win three individual gold medals, in the 200, 400 and 800 meter freestyle events. The 800 meters was a new long-distance event for women. Debbie was only 16 years old at the time, attending Rio Americano High School in Sacramento, California.
  • American swimmer Charles 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.
  • The Mexican athlete Norma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo 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 meter altitude of Mexico City.
  • It was the first games where the closing ceremony was transmitted in color to all the world.

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