1968 Summer Olympics

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

The 1968 Summer Olympics (Spanish: Juegos Olímpicos de Verano de 1968), officially known as the Games of the XIX Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held from 12 to 27 October 1968 in Mexico City, Mexico. 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 also the first Games to use an all-weather (smooth) track for track and field events instead of the traditional cinder track. This was also the first example of the Olympics exclusively using electronic timekeeping equipment. [2]


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 1968 Mexican Student Movement was crushed days prior, hence the Games were correlated to the government's repression.

The United States won the most gold and overall medals for the last time until 1984.

Host city selection

Opening ceremony of the 1968 Summer Olympic Games at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario in Mexico City Olympic Summer Games 1968 Opening.jpg
Opening ceremony of the 1968 Summer Olympic Games at the Estadio Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City

On 18 October 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. [3]

1968 Summer Olympics bidding results [4]
CityCountryRound 1
Mexico City Flag of Mexico (1934-1968).svg  Mexico 30
Detroit Flag of the United States.svg  United States 14
Lyon Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg  France 12
Buenos Aires Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 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. [5] American sculptor James Metcalf, an expatriate in Mexico, won the commission to forge the Olympic torch for the 1968 Summer Games. [6]


Adolfo Lopez Mateos, President of Mexico from 1958 to 1964 and first chairman of the Organization Committee of the 1968 Summer Olympics Lopez Mateos.jpg
Adolfo López Mateos, President of Mexico from 1958 to 1964 and first chairman of the Organization Committee of the 1968 Summer Olympics


South Africa

After the 1964 refusal to participate, South Africa - under its new leader John Vorster - had made diplomatic overtures to improve relations with neighbouring countries and internationally, suggesting legal changes to allow South Africa to compete with an integrated, multiracial team internationally. The nominal obstacle behind South Africa's exclusion thus removed, the country was thus 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". [20] It was thus the first Olympics where South Africa was positively excluded, which endured until the 1992 Olympics.

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[ by whom? ] 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!"). [21] [22]

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. [23] [24] [25]

Black Power salute

Gold medalist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200 m race John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Peter Norman 1968cr.jpg
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 human rights badges and black socks without shoes, 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. [26]

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 [27] and a reprimand by his country's Olympic authorities. He was not sent to the 1972 games, despite several times making the qualifying time, [28] though opinion differ over whether that was due to the 1968 protest. [29] When Australia hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics, he had no part in the opening ceremony, though the significance of that is also debated. [29] In 2006, after Norman died of a heart attack, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at Norman's funeral. [30]

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 Soviet control (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 communist regime in Czechoslovakia.



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 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.)

Participating countries 1968 Summer Olympic games countries.png
Participating countries


All dates are in Central Time Zone (UTC-6)
OCOpening ceremonyEvent competitions1Gold medal eventsCCClosing ceremony
Olympic Rings Icon.svg CeremoniesOCCCN/A
Athletics pictogram.svg Athletics 1447652736
Basketball pictogram.svg Basketball 11
Boxing pictogram.svg Boxing 1111
Canoeing pictogram.svg Canoeing 77
Cycling pictogram.svg Cycling 1111217
Diving pictogram.svg Diving 11114
Equestrian pictogram.svg Equestrian 211116
Fencing pictogram.svg Fencing 111111118
Field hockey pictogram.svg Field hockey 11
Football pictogram.svg Football 11
Gymnastics pictogram.svg Gymnastics 224614
Modern pentathlon pictogram.svg Modern pentathlon 22
Rowing pictogram.svg Rowing 77
Sailing pictogram.svg Sailing 55
Shooting pictogram.svg Shooting 211127
Swimming pictogram.svg Swimming 24333443328
Volleyball pictogram.svg Volleyball 22
Water polo pictogram.svg Water polo 11
Weightlifting pictogram.svg Weightlifting 11111117
Wrestling pictogram.svg Wrestling 8816
Daily medal events25691310172014512816341172
Cumulative total2713223545628296101113121137171172
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". [31]

Medal count

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

1Flag of the United States.svg  United States 452834107
2Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union 29323091
3Flag of Japan (1870-1999).svg  Japan 117725
4Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary 10101232
5Flag of the German Olympic Team (1960-1968).svg  East Germany 99725
6Flag of France.svg  France 73515
7Flag of Czechoslovakia.svg  Czechoslovakia 72413
8Flag of the German Olympic Team (1960-1968).svg  West Germany 5111026
9Flag of Australia.svg  Australia 57517
10Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  Great Britain 55313
Totals (10 nations)133114117364

See also

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Věra Čáslavská Czech gymnast

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Tommie Smith

Tommie C. Smith is an American former track & field athlete and former wide receiver in the American Football League. At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Smith, aged 24, won the 200-meter sprint finals and gold medal in 19.83 seconds – the first time the 20-second barrier was broken officially. His Black Power salute with John Carlos atop the medal podium to protest racism and injustice against African-Americans in the United States caused controversy, as it was seen as politicizing the Olympic Games. It remains a symbolic moment in the history of the Black Power movement.

Lee Evans (sprinter) American track and field athlete

Lee Edward Evans is an American Olympian from the 1968 Summer Olympics where he ran track and was part of the boycott and black power movement.

Vincent Matthews (athlete) American sprinter

Vincent "Vince" Edward Matthews is an American former sprinter, winner of two Olympic gold medals, at the 1968 Summer Olympics and 1972 Summer Olympics.

John Carlos American track and field athlete

John Wesley Carlos is an American former track and field athlete and professional football player. He was the bronze-medal winner in the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics, and his Black Power salute on the podium with Tommie Smith caused much political controversy. He went on to tie the world record in the 100-yard dash and beat the 200 meters world record. After his track career, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Canadian Football League but retired due to injury.

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.

1968 Olympics Black Power salute Protest during 1968 Olympic Games

During their medal ceremony in the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City on October 16, 1968, two African-American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of the US national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner". While on the podium, Smith and Carlos, who had won gold and bronze medals respectively in the 200-meter running event of the 1968 Summer Olympics, turned to face the US flag and then kept their hands raised until the anthem had finished. In addition, Smith, Carlos, and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman all wore human-rights badges on their jackets.

Wayne Collett American sprinter

Wayne Curtis Collett was an African-American Olympic sprinter. Collett won a silver medal in the 400 m at the 1972 Summer Olympics. During the medal ceremony Collett and winner Vincent Matthews talked to each other, shuffled their feet, stroked their chins and fidgeted while the US national anthem played, leading many to believe it was a Black Power protest like the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

Olympic Project for Human Rights

The Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) was an American organization established by sociologist Harry Edwards and others, including noted Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos, in October 1967. The aim of the organization was to protest against racial segregation in the United States and elsewhere, and racism in sports in general.

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External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Full Olympic Film - Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games on YouTube
Preceded by
Summer Olympic Games
Mexico City

XIX Olympiad (1968)
Succeeded by