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The choice of Mexico City to host the 1968 Olympic Games proved to be a controversial one because of the city's high altitude, 2,300m. The altitude proved an advantage in explosive events such as short-distance running, jumping, throwing and weightlifting. But the rarefied air proved disastrous for those competing in endurance events.
The high altitude led to world records in all of the men’s races that were 400m or shorter, plus the long jump and triple jump. Probably the most memorable achievement was Bob Beamon’s spectacular long jump of 8.90m - a world record that would last for 22 years.
Mexican hurdler Enriqueta Basilio became the first woman to light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony. Wyomia Tyus of the US became the first athlete to win the 100m twice. Dick Fosbury won the men’s high jump with a new jumping style now known as the “Fosbury Flop”, and for the first time winners had to undergo a doping test.
The Games were blessed with many outstanding heroines but none more so than Vera Caslavska. The attractive and vivacious Czech gymnast won four golds and two silver medals. Her victories were dramatic - defeating Soviet gymnasts two months after the Soviet invasion of her homeland.
It was the first times the Games had taken place in Latin America at such a high altitude above sea level (2 300m). The altitude was an advantage in the events which needed a brief but intense effort (running up to 800m, jumping, throwing, weightlifting, etc.) but a handicap for efforts lasting longer than two minutes (long-distance and middle-distance running, swimming, cycling, etc.)
The athletes from the German Democratic Republic competed in their own team under the name of “East Germany”. It was only in 1972 that they took part under the official name of their country, “German Democratic Republic”.
The itinerary of the Olympic torch relay followed in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus, tracing the route of his first journey from Spain to the New World.
The year 1968 was extremely important from a political point of view. The People’s Republic of China found itself in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, the attempt to liberalize Czechoslovakia was crushed by Soviet troops, the French government was caught up in student demonstrations and throughout the United States, peace and civil rights demonstrations were taking place. Mexico was not forgotten in this wave of revolution- students and teachers were on strike and held large protest rallies, bloodily repressed at the Square of Three Cultures.
Over and above winning medals, the black American athletes made names for themselves by an act of racial protest. During the medal presentation ceremony, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medal winners in the 200m, raised a black-gloved fist and hung their heads when their country’s national anthem was played. In doing this, they were protesting against racial segregation in the United States and were subsequently expelled from the Olympic Village.
For the first time, the winners had to undergo a doping test (narcotics, stimulants).
A synthetic material (tartan) was used for the first time on the athletics track.
The athletics, cycling, rowing, canoe, swimming and equestrian competitions were timed manually and electronically- for the first time, the electronic time was the official one
Mexico 12 October 1968. Opening ceremony :
Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo (MEX) climbs with the Olympic torch.
Official opening of the Games by:
President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz
Lighting the Olympic Flame by:
Norma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo (athletics)
Olympic Oath by:
Pablo Lugo Garrido (athletics)
Official Oath by:
The officials' oath at an Olympic Summer Games was first sworn in 1972 in Munich.
It is a combination of the five Olympic rings and the year. The design came from the collaboration of three artists: Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, architect and President of the Organising Committee for the Games, Eduardo Terrazas (MEX) and Lance Wyman (USA). It recalls the patterns of the Huichole Indians.
On the obverse, the traditional goddess of victory, holding a palm in her left hand and a winner’s crown in her right. A design used since the 1928 Games in Amsterdam, created by Florentine artist Giuseppe Cassioli (ITA -1865-1942) and chosen after a competition organised by the International Olympic Committee in 1921. For these Games, the picture of victory is accompanied by the specific inscription: “XIX OLIMPIADA MEXICO 1968”. On the reverse, an Olympic champion carried in triumph by the crowd, with the Olympic stadium in the background. N.B: From 1928 to 1968, the medals for the Summer Games were identical. The Organising Committee for the Games in Munich in 1972 broke new ground by having a different reverse which was designed by a Bauhaus representative, Gerhard Marcks.
Number of torchbearers: 2 778
Total distance: 13 536 km including transport by boat and the 330km in Greece
Countries crossed: Greece, Italy, Spain, Bahamas and Mexico
The series of posters for these Games came from the collaboration of three artists: Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, architect and President of the Organising Committee for the Games, Eduardo Terrazas (MEX) and Lance Wyman (USA) who designed the “Mexico 68” logo. They then developed it to create the black and white poster, which recalls the patterns of the Huichole Indians. Some 25,000 copies of the poster presented here were produced in one of the following colours: blue, red, yellow, green or black. A total of 1,591,000 posters were produced on the following themes : - 18 sports posters: 287,000 copies - 19 cultural posters: 190,500 copies - 99 posters of various topics : 1,114,000 copies
Entitled “Mexico 68”, the official report published in 1969 set a new record at more than 2,300 pages. It consisted of four main volumes (The land; The Organization; The Games; The Cultural Olympiad) plus a set of various memorabilia: medals, tickets and postcards. This “fifth volume” is not widely known. The official report was published in four languages, in the form of two bilingual editions, French and English, and Spanish and German.