1968 Summer Olympics

The 1968 Summer Olympics (Spanish: Juegos Olímpicos de Verano de 1968), officially known as the Games of the XIX Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Mexico City, Mexico, from October 12th to the 27th.

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 the first Games to use an all-weather (smooth) track for track and field events instead of the traditional cinder track.

The 1968 Games were the third to be held in the last quarter of the year, 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.

Games of the XIX Olympiad
1968 Mexico emblem
Logo for the 1968 Summer Olympics, designed by Lance Wyman
Host cityMexico City, Mexico
Athletes5,516 (4,735 men, 781 women)
Events172 in 18 sports (24 disciplines)
Opening12 October
Closing27 October
Opened by
StadiumEstadio Olímpico Universitario
Tokyo 1964 Munich 1972
Grenoble 1968 Sapporo 1972

Host city selection

Olympic Summer Games 1968 Opening
Opening ceremony 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.[2]

Olympic torch relay

The 1968 torch relay recreated the route taken by Christopher Columbus to the New World, journeying from Greece through Italy and Spain to San Salvador Island, Bahamas, and then on to Mexico.[4] American sculptor James Metcalf, an expatriate in Mexico, won the commission to forge the Olympic torch for the 1968 Summer Games.[5]


Lopez Mateos
Adolfo López Mateos, President of Mexico from 1958 to 1964 and first chairman of the Organization Committee of the 1968 Summer Olympics
  • 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. In response, the IOC banned Smith and Carlos from the Olympic Games for life, and Norman's omission from Australia's Olympic team in 1972 was allegedly as punishment.[6][7]
  • George Foreman won the gold medal in heavyweight boxing 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.[8]
  • 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 other Summer Olympic Games before or since have been held at high elevation.[9]
  • 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 did not catch on. The tracks at previous Olympics were conventional cinder.[10]
  • 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.
  • Al Oerter 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).[11]
  • Bob Beamon leapt 8.90 m (29.2 ft) in the long jump, an incredible 55 cm (22 in) improvement over the previous world record. It remained the Olympic record and stood as the world record for 23 years, until broken by American Mike Powell in 1991. 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. Winner Viktor Saneev also won in 1972 and 1976, and won silver in 1980.
  • Dick Fosbury won the gold medal in the high jump using his unconventional Fosbury flop technique, which quickly became the dominant technique in the event.[12]
  • Věra Čáslavská of Czechoslovakia won four gold medals in gymnastics and protested the Soviet invasion of her country.
  • Debbie Meyer 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, 4 × 100 m medley relay) and one silver medal (100m backstroke).[13]
  • 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 the last place, despite a dislocated knee.[14]
  • This was the first of three Olympic participation by Jacques Rogge. He competed in yachting and would later become the president of the IOC.[15]
  • 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.
  • Kipchoge Keino of Kenya, competing in spite of unexpected bouts of severe abdominal pain later diagnosed as a gall bladder infection, finished the 10,000 meters in spite of collapsing from pain with two laps to go, won silver in the 5000, and won gold in the 1500 meters.[16][17]
  • It was the first Olympic games in which the closing ceremony was transmitted in color to the world, as well as the events themselves.[18]


South Africa

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 African 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".[19]

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!").[20][21]

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. Hundreds 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.[22][23][24]

Black Power salute

John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Peter Norman 1968cr
Gold medalist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200 m race

On October 16, 1968, African American 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, in solidarity with the Black Freedom Movement in the United States. Both were members of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Avery Brundage deemed it to be a domestic political statement unfit for the apolitical, international forum the Olympic Games were intended to be. In response to their actions, he ordered Smith and Carlos suspended from the US team and banned from the Olympic Village. When the US Olympic Committee refused, Brundage threatened to ban the entire US track team. This threat led to the expulsion of the two athletes from the Games.[25]

Peter Norman, the Australian sprinter who came second in the 200 m race, also wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge during the medal ceremony. Norman was the one who suggested that Carlos and Smith wear one glove each. His actions resulted in him being ostracized by Australian media[26] and a reprimand by his country's Olympic authorities. He was not sent to the 1972 games, despite several times making the qualifying time,[27] though opinion differ over whether that was due to the 1968 protest.[28] When Australia hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics, he had no part in the opening ceremony, though the significance of that is also debated.[28] In 2006, after Norman died of a heart attack, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at Norman's funeral.[29]

Věra Čáslavská

In another notable incident in the gymnastics competition, while standing on the medal podium after the balance beam event final, in which 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. Her protest 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 allow her to tie with Čáslavská for the gold. 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 until the fall of communism.



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

Demonstration sports

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.

Participating National Olympic Committees

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, the 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. Suriname and Libya actually competed for the first time (in 1960 and 1964, respectively, they took part in the Opening Ceremony, but their athletes withdrew from the competition.)

1968 Summer Olympic games countries
Participating countries


All dates are in Central Time Zone (UTC-6)
OC Opening ceremony Event competitions 1 Gold medal events CC Closing ceremony
October 12th
Olympic Rings Icon.svg Ceremonies OC CC N/A
Athletics 1 4 4 7 6 5 2 7 36
Basketball 1 1
Boxing 11 11
Canoeing 7 7
Cycling 1 1 1 1 2 1 7
Diving 1 1 1 1 4
Equestrian 2 1 1 1 1 6
Fencing 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
Field hockey 1 1
Football 1 1
Gymnastics 2 2 4 6 14
Modern pentathlon 2 2
Rowing 7 7
Sailing 5 5
Shooting 2 1 1 1 2 7
Swimming 2 4 3 3 3 4 4 3 3 28
Volleyball 2 2
Water polo 1 1
Weightlifting 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 7
Wrestling 8 8 16
Daily medal events 2 5 6 9 13 10 17 20 14 5 12 8 16 34 1 172
Cumulative total 2 7 13 22 35 45 62 82 96 101 113 121 137 171 172
October 12th
Total events

Boycotting countries

North Korea withdrew from the 1968 Games because of two incidents that strained its relations with the IOC. First, the IOC had barred North Korean track and field athletes from the 1968 Games because they had participated in the rival Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO) in 1966. Secondly, the IOC had ordered the nation to compete under the name "North Korea" in the 1968 Games, whereas the country itself would have preferred its official name: "Democratic People's Republic of Korea".[30]

Medal count

These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1968 Games. Host Mexico won 9 medals in total.

1 United States452834107
2 Soviet Union29323091
3 Japan117725
4 Hungary10101232
5 East Germany99725
6 France73515
7 Czechoslovakia72413
8 West Germany5111026
9 Australia57517
10 Great Britain55313
Totals (10 nations)133114117364

See also


  1. ^ a b "Factsheet - Opening Ceremony of the Games of the Olympiad" (PDF) (Press release). International Olympic Committee. 9 October 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 August 2016. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  2. ^ IOC Vote History
  3. ^ "Past Olympic host city election results". GamesBids. Archived from the original on 17 March 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  4. ^ "Mexico 1968 Summer Olympics - results & video highlights". International Olympic Committee. 2018-12-18. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "2 Black Power Advocates Ousted From Olympics". archive.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  7. ^ CNN, By James Montague,. "The third man: The forgotten Black Power hero - CNN". CNN. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  8. ^ George Foreman (2011-11-12), George Foreman vs Ionas Chepulis (1968 Gold medal boxing match), retrieved 2018-06-04
  9. ^ Matthews, Peter (2012-03-22). Historical Dictionary of Track and Field. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810879850.
  10. ^ Matthews, Peter (2012-03-22). Historical Dictionary of Track and Field. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810879850.
  11. ^ Litsky, Frank (2 October 2007). "Al Oerter, Olympic Discus Champion, Is Dead at 71". Retrieved 25 January 2017 – via Proquest Newspapers.
  12. ^ The Sports of the Times: A Day-by-Day Selection of the Most Important, Thrilling and Inspired Events of the Past 150 Years, edited by William Taaffe, David Fischer, New York, N.Y, U.S.: New York Times and St. Martin's Press, 2003, "October 20, 1968: Fearless Fosbury Flops to Glory," Joseph Durso, page 333.
  13. ^ "Mexico 1968 Swimming - Results & Videos". International Olympic Committee. 2016-09-08. Retrieved 2017-02-13.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-10-01. Retrieved 2016-10-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Count Jacques ROGGE - Comité Olympique et Interfédéral Belge, IOC Member since 1991". International Olympic Committee. 2017-01-17. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
  16. ^ The Complete Book of the Olympics, 2012 edition, David Wallechinsky, Jaime Loucky, London, England, UK: Aurum Press Ltd, 2012, "Track & Field (Men): 1500 Meters," page 108.
  17. ^ Keino Reflects on Legendary Race: Now 63 and an IOC member, ever-humble Kenyan takes a lap around Mexico City track where he ran memorable 1,500, Los Angeles Times, Alan Abrahamson, Nov. 28, 2002.
  18. ^ Guinness World Records - First summer Olympic Games to be televised in colour
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ México 1968: Las Olimpiadas 10 días después de la matanza Archived 2013-07-04 at the Wayback Machine. ADN Politico (2012-08-08). Retrieved on 2013-07-03.
  21. ^ 1968: Student riots threaten Mexico Olympics. BBC Sport. Retrieved on 2013-07-03.
  22. ^ Werner, Michael S., ed. Encyclopedia of Mexico: History, Society & Culture. Vol. 2 Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.
  23. ^ Mexican students protest for greater democracy, 1968. Global Non-Violent Action Database. Retrieved on 2013-07-03.
  24. ^ The Dead of Tlatelolco. The National Security Archive. Retrieved on 2013-07-03.
  25. ^ On This Day: Tommie Smith and John Carlos Give Black Power Salute on Olympic Podium. Findingdulcinea.com. Retrieved on 13 June 2015.
  26. ^ Wise, Mike (5 October 2006). "Clenched fists, helping hand". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 November 2008.
  27. ^ Frost, Caroline (17 October 2008). "The other man on the podium". BBC. Archived from the original on October 20, 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2008.
  28. ^ a b Messenger, Robert (24 August 2012). "Leigh sprints into wrong lane over Norman". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  29. ^ Flanagan, Martin (6 October 2006). "Olympic protest heroes praise Norman's courage". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 November 2008.
  30. ^ Grasso, John; Mallon, Bill; Heijmans, Jeroen (2015). "Korea, Democratic People's Republic of (North Korea) (PRK)". Historical Dictionary of the Olympic Movement (5th ed.). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 316. ISBN 978-1-4422-4860-1.

External links

Preceded by
Summer Olympic Games
Mexico City

XIX Olympiad (1968)
Succeeded by
Athletics at the 1968 Summer Olympics

At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, 36 athletics events were contested, 24 for men and 12 for women. There were a total number of 1031 participating athletes from 93 countries.

These games were notable for a number of Olympic firsts and numerous world records. These included:

Dick Fosbury introduced the Fosbury Flop to the high Jump by jumping over backwards, whereas the prevailing methods involved jumping forwards or sideways.

The first African Gold Medallists in the 1500m and 3000m Steeplechase, as well as many other medals in middle and long distance events. Particularly symbolic of Africa's new found dominance was the victory by Kenyan athlete Kip Keino in the 1500m final.

Bob Beamon broke Ralph Boston's 1965 and Igor Ter-Ovanesyan's 1967 World Record in the Men's Long Jump by 55 cm (22 in). This record was not broken until 1991. It remains the second best legal jump in history.

The World Record was broken in the Men's Triple Jump five times by three athletes, including the final jump of the event. The top five finishers all beat the previous world record.

The Black Power salute: Tommie Smith and John Carlos wore black gloves and bowed their heads on the medal podium after their medals in the 200m.

Jim Hines became the first sprinter to officially break the 10-second barrier in the 100 metres.This was the first Olympics to use an all-weather track surface now used in every major international athletics competition.

Australia at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Australia competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. Australian athletes have competed in every Summer Olympic Games. 128 competitors, 104 men and 24 women, took part in 105 events in 16 sports.

Basketball at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Basketball contests at the 1968 Summer Olympics took place at the Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City, Mexico from October 13 to October 25, 1968. The United States defeated Yugoslavia to win their seventh straight gold medal in this sport, while the Soviet Union earned the bronze against Brazil.

Czechoslovakia at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Czechoslovakia competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. 121 competitors, 94 men and 27 women, took part in 66 events in 14 sports.

East Germany at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Athletes from East Germany (German Democratic Republic) competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. 226 competitors, 186 men and 40 women, took part in 124 events in 18 sports. It was the first time that West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) and East Germany had sent separate teams to the Summer Olympic Games.

Football at the 1968 Summer Olympics

The 1968 Olympic football tournament was played as part of the 1968 Summer Olympics. The tournament features 16 men's national teams from five continental confederations. The 16 teams are drawn into four groups of four and each group plays a round-robin tournament. At the end of the group stage, the top two teams advanced to the knockout stage, beginning with the quarter-finals and culminating with the gold medal match at the Azteca Stadium on 26 October 1968. This was the first time an Asian team won a medal, Japan claiming bronze.

France at the 1968 Summer Olympics

France competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. 200 competitors, 169 men and 31 women, took part in 107 events in 16 sports.

Great Britain at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Great Britain, represented by the British Olympic Association (BOA), competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. 225 competitors, 175 men and 50 women, took part in 133 events in 16 sports. British athletes have competed in every Summer Olympic Games.

Hungary at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Hungary competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. 167 competitors, 135 men and 32 women, took part in 116 events in 15 sports.

Italy at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Italy (Spanish: Italia) competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. 167 competitors, 152 men and 15 women, took part in 103 events in 17 sports.

Kenya at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Kenya competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. 39 competitors, 36 men and 3 women, took part in 22 events in 4 sports.

Mexico at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Mexico was the host nation for the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. 275 competitors, 233 men and 42 women, took part in 146 events in 20 sports.

Netherlands at the 1968 Summer Olympics

The Netherlands competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. 107 competitors, 82 men and 25 women, took part in 52 events in 11 sports.

Romania at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Romania competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. 82 competitors, 66 men and 16 women, took part in 64 events in 9 sports.

Sailing at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Sailing/Yachting is an Olympic sport starting from the Games of the 1st Olympiad (1896 Olympics) in Athens, Greece. With the exception of 1904 and the canceled 1916 Summer Olympics, sailing has always been included on the Olympic schedule.

The Sailing program of 1968 consisted of a total of five sailing classes (disciplines). For each class seven races were scheduled from 14 October 1968 to 21 October 1968 off the coast of Acapulco in the Bay of Acapulco.

The sailing was done on the triangular type Olympic courses.

Soviet Union at the 1968 Summer Olympics

The Soviet Union (USSR) competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. 312 competitors, 246 men and 66 women, took part in 164 events in 18 sports.

Swimming at the 1968 Summer Olympics

At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, 29 events in swimming were contested. There was a total of 468 participants from 51 countries competing. The United States dominated the competition, winning 52 of 87 medals, with 15-year-old phenom Debbie Meyer winning three gold medals.

United States at the 1968 Summer Olympics

The United States competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. 357 competitors, 274 men and 83 women, took part in 167 events in 18 sports.

West Germany at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Athletes from West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. It was the first time that East Germany (German Democratic Republic) and West Germany sent separate teams to the Summer Olympic Games. 275 competitors, 232 men and 43 women, took part in 154 events in 17 sports for West Germany.

1968 Summer Olympics bidding result[3]
City Country Round 1
Mexico City  Mexico 30
Detroit  United States 14
Lyon  France 12
Buenos Aires  Argentina 2
Participating National Olympic Committees
Nations at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico
Events at the 1968 Summer Olympics (Mexico City)
Venues of the 1968 Summer Olympics (Mexico City)

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