Olympics History >> Mexico 1968 >> Overview

Mexico 1968 - Overview

Games enter modern era

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

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

In the high jump amazed spectators saw Dick Fosbury jump backward over the bar as all his rivals chose the conventional method of jumping with their stomachs closest to the bar.

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

In the triple jump, eventually won by Soviet Viktor Saneiev with a total of 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. Kenyan Kip Keino produced the highlight taking the 1500m gold.

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

Panthers sprint into history books

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

In gymnastics, Czechoslovakia's Vera Caslavska added to her three gold medals won four years earlier in Tokyo by hauling in another four titles and two silver medals. 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 and killed approximately 300 demonstrating students in a bloodbath just prior to the Games.

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

And Vietnam was not the only source of controversy for the U.S. On the 200m podium, two American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised black-gloved fists to protest civil rights abuse in the United States.

Their gesture earned them a ban by their own delegation and they met with a hostile reception upon arrival in America.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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