Olympics and History of the Modern Games France and Mexico in 1968

About the olympics and the modern games, account of the games in France and Mexico City in 1968.


Jean-Claude Killy equaled Toni Sailer's feat by winning the slalom, giant slalom, and downhill, and he was referred to as "immortal," "grand," "cute," and "legendary." A furor developed around charges that Killy flashed the brand name on his skis as often as possible when photographed. Henceforth, skiers were required to put tape over brand names on skis to guard against commercialism.

American skiers had a rough time: Eight of the 14 team members suffered training or race mishaps.

Norwegians won the most gold medals, 14. Sweden's Toini Gustaffson won 2 golds in women's cross-country skiing. Italy's Eugenio Monti, coming out of retirement at 40, won the single bobsled title and was pressed into service as pilot for Italy's 4-man sled, which was victorious, too.

Luge, the sport of sledding down an icy chute feet 1st, had a scandal when judges and jury decided 2 East German women had illegally heated sled runners.


The IOC bowed to international pressure, and limited the amount of time a team could train at Mexico City where altitude (7,500') would be a problem for endurance runners. Russia's invasion of Czechoslovakia was of concern at the time. Vera Calaska-who married teammate Josef Odlozil amid wild enthusiasm at the city's cathedral-won 4 gold medals in gymnastics which she presented to 4 political leaders who had attempted to achieve Czech independence. Earlier, in her homeland, she had been forced into hiding when Russian tanks advanced, and she had practiced for the Olympics in cellars.

Hundreds of students had been killed by police in Mexico City during a demonstration a few weeks before the games.

On the victory stand, U.S. black sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 1st and 3rd in the 200-m., bowed their heads and raised black-gloved, clenched fists during the U.S. National Anthem. According to Carlos:

Tommie and I were just telling them that black people and minority people were tired of what was taking place in the U.S. and all over the world. We were telling them about roaches and rats and diseases that plague the poor. ... I don't think we were very successful. The press and TV blew it all out of proportion.

They were denounced, expelled from Olympic Village, their visas canceled, and they were ordered out of Mexico.

The U.S. won 95 medals, and its swimmers accounted for 23 of the 40 gold, plus 15 silver and 20 bronze. Nearest rival was Russia, with 69 medals (21 gold).

Kenya's runners, used to high altitudes, won 3 gold medals, 4 silver ones, and a bronze; the 1,500-m. favorite, Jim Ryun of Kansas, was edged by Kipchoge Keino.

An 18-year-old California swimmer, Mark Spitz, brashly predicted that he would win a record 6 gold medals, but did not win any. Americans generally suffered from "Montezuma's Revenge," spending a good deal of time in the restrooms. A Mexican swimmer became a national hero with his surprise victory.

A 3-day equestrian endurance test outside Mexico City in rain and mud resulted in the death of 7 horses. A Frenchman and the British team were winners. Grand Prix jumping in the capital was an esthetic affair. Bill Steinkraus, 43-year-old book editor, in his 5th try won the 1st gold medal for the U.S. in this event. Marion Coakes of Great Britain became the 1st woman to win a medal in this event, riding a pony of nondescript breeding.

Dick Fosbury executed his backward "Fosbury Flip" at 7' 4 1/2" to win the high jump.

The small Kenyan track team was given a Homeric welcome upon its return to Kenya. In addition to Keino, they boasted champions in the steeplechase, and the 10,000-m., and silver medals for a relay.

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