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Summer Olympics Games. Mexico City, 1968 and the Black Power Movement

Updated on June 25, 2012

1968 Olympics- 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, In 1968 I was only 10 years old going on 11 Well you might say so what ? Well the so what is ! Apart from just really becoming interested in sport for the first time this is when I became exposed to Politics.

The 1968 Olympic Black Power Salute was as far back as I can remember about a political protest. Something that would go onto influence my views of world politics. it was the first long sustained event that I saw on television. Britain's famous BBC broadcast virtually uninterrupted coverage of the entire Olympic 68 Games.

The Mexican athlete Norma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo became the first woman to light the Olympic cauldron with the Olympic flame.


The 1968 Olympics Black Power salute

In the 200 metre sprint 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. This is despite Norman having Olympic qualifying times.

The two U.S athletes received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride, Carlos had his tracksuit top unzipped to show solidarity with all blue collar workers in the U.S. and wore a necklace of beads which he described "were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage. All three athletes wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges, after Norman expressed sympathy with their ideals.

On October 2, 1968, ten days before the start of the 1968 Summer Olympics the Plaza de las Tres Culturas was the scene of the Tlatelolco massacre, in which more than 300 student protesters were killed after a battle against the army and police. Despite the event, the International Olympic Committee did not consider canceling the games, because it was an isolated event involving a social minority.

Some people, particularly IOC president, Avery Brundageelt that a political statement had no place in the international forum of the Olympic Games. In an immediate response to their actions, Smith and Carlos were suspended from the U.S. team by Brundage and banned from the Olympic Village. Those who opposed the protest said the actions disgraced all Americans. Supporters, on the other hand, praised the men for their bravery.

 The high altitude of Mexico City made life uncomfortable for the distance runners, but elsewhere records crashed.

Political issues dominated. South Africa were absent after the majority of black African nations threatened to boycott the Games if they were invited.

The medal ceremony for the 200m saw US sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their black-gloved fists in a symbol of the black-power movement.

The team's management banned the two athletes and they were sent home.

A total of 34 world and 38 Olympic records were set, with the most outstanding being the new mark set by American Bob Beamon in the long jump.

He beat the previous record by a massive 55cm as he leapt 8.90m.

American high jumper Dick Fosbury won gold with his 'flop' style that was to revolutionise the event and replace the conventional straddle technique.

The triple jump saw the previous Olympic record beaten by seven competitors and the world mark improved on five occasions.

Records brocken

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,

Beamon became the first man to pass the 28 and 29 feet mark as he bettered the old record by 21.75 inches, or 55 centimetres.

To put that into perspective, in the previous 33 years, the world record had been improved by just 22cm from Jesse Owen's 8.13m in 1935 to Igor Ter-Ovanesyan's 8.35m in 1967.

Beamon's 8.90m jump had to be measured manually as the technology on hand could not cope with such a distance.

Detractors point to the fact that Beamon's jump was achieved at altitude where the thinner air helps athletes who compete in sprinting and jumping events and that he had a following wind of 2.0m per second, which is the maximum allowed for a world record to stand.

But I like to think it was just his day and it was one of those glorious moments in sport where everything clicks.

He never came close to matching his record, 8.22m being the furthest he achieved in the rest of his career, but his record lasted an incredible 23 years before compatriot Mike Powell eclipsed it.

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.

High Jump

 Dick Fosbury (United States) drew attention not because of any political statement, but because of his unorthodox jumping technique. Though there had been several techniques previously used to get over the high jump bar, Fosbury jumped over the bar backwards and head first. This form of jumping became known as the "Fosbury flop."


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I recently foud out about the 'black fiest' demonstration. I'm proud of these people. Tommie Smith (gold), John Carlos (bronze) and Australian Peter Norman, are my heroes!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hey, the videos are great! I enjoy the music and teh attire in the second one especially. Thanks for finding the Opening Ceremonies.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      9 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Patty took me a while to find videos that would work

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thaks for this Hub; I saw not one second of the Games at all that year, so this is great. Are there any videos of the highlights?

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      9 years ago from Queensland Australia

      thanks prettydarkhorse

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      9 years ago from Queensland Australia

      thanks Smireles :)

    • sagebrush_mama profile image


      9 years ago from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound!

      Very interesting! Was the Tlatelolco massacre related to the same issues as the protest of the athletes, or was it a different issue?

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      9 years ago from US

      Now I know that they hosted it at that time, great share Barry, CONGRATULATIONS 200 HUBS!

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      9 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for the comment & Yes the 200th hub hard to believe !

    • GeneralHowitzer profile image

      Gener Geminiano 

      9 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

      A great look at the past... and Kudos to your 200th Hub... Cheers...

    • Smireles profile image

      Sandra Mireles 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Great discussion and info about the Mexican Olympics.


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