Olympics History >> Mexico 1968 >> Overview

Mexico 1968 - Overview

Games enter modern era

The incredible leap of 8.90m made by American Bob Beamon to win an astonishing long-jump contest was typical of several advances on and off the sports field made at the 1968 Games in Mexico City.

At an altitude of 2200m, American sprinters broke record after record, Jim Hines clocking 9.95 sec in the 100m, Tommy Smith with 19.83sec in the 200m and Lee Evans with 43.86 sec in the 400m all establishing surprisingly advanced new world records.

In the high-jump, amazed spectators saw Dick Fosbury jump backwards over the bar as all his rivals chose the conventional method of jumping on their stomachs.

The "Fosbury Flop" became the new style to tackle the bar.

In the triple-jump, eventually won by the Soviet Viktor Saneiev's 17.39m, the world record was beaten four times by three different competitors.

African middle and long distance runners also burst onto the scene and were to dominate the discipline for decades with Kenyan Kip Keino producing the highlight taking the 1500m gold.

Beamon's leap was truly a generational sporting moment. He beat the old record by 55cm and it stood for a further 23 years until America's Mike Powell beat it by 5cm in 1991.

Panthers sprint into history books

The Olympic stadium was not the only one to see spectacular action.

In gymnastics Czechoslovakia's Vera Caslavska added to her three gold medals won four years previous in Tokyo by hauling in another four titles and two silver medals while in swimming Australia's Mike Wenden pulled off a famous double with the 100m and 200m freestyle golds.

Boxing continued its fine tradition of producing future world champions when America's George Foreman followed in the footsteps of both Joe Frazier and Cassius Clay with Olympic gold.

He was to meet both men in the ring later in two of history's more memorable bouts.

But the 34 world records broken in Mexico City were overshadowed by political events.

Mexican authorities had shot dead 300 demonstrating students in a never to be forgiven bloodbath just prior to the Games.

Soviet tanks had rolled out into Prague that summer and the Vietnam War was in full swing.

And Vietnam was not the only source of shame for the US. On the 200m podium two American athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Panther salute to protest civil rights abuse in the USA that still practiced racial segregation.

Their gesture of raising black-gloved fists to the skies earned a ban by their own delegation and they returned to a hostile reception on arrival in America.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.


Moment in Time