Mexico City 1968

The 1968 Games was the first – and, to this date, only – Games to be held at high altitude. Mexico City was situated 2240m above sea level and the thin air did impact adversely on some performances.

In many ways, it was a Games of contention. Riots, strikes and protests occurred in Mexico City in the lead-up to the Games, resulting in the tragic deaths of hundreds of young protesters when police opened fire on a student rally a fortnight before the Opening Ceremony. During the Games, African-American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos staged their own ‘Black Power’ demonstration on the medal podium after the 200m sprint final, each raising a gloved fist in the air during the playing of their national anthem (the other man on the podium was Australian Peter Norman, the silver medallist).

The Games also featured one of the singularly celebrated feats in Olympic history: American Bob Beamon’s historic world record long jump leap of 8.90m to win the gold medal. The previous world record was 8.35m; Beamon’s jump was so extraordinary it would remain a world record until 1991. He achieved it with the fourth jump of the final on the afternoon of October 18, collapsing in a fit of emotion when the distance was displayed on the scoreboard. 

A significant moment in Games’ history occurred in the men’s 10,000m when African athletes swept the medals for the first time in an event and a Kenyan, Naftali Temu, won his nation’s first gold medal. Australia’s Ron Clarke, who lit the Olympic flame in Melbourne 1956, was sixth. African runners would later rule middle distance and distance running at the Games. Other athletics highlights included American Dick Fosbury winning the high jump with his new leaping technique, the Fosbury Flop, which would revolutionise the event; and his team-mate Al Oerter winning a record fourth consecutive gold medal in discus. Such results helped the US to the top of the medal table, winning 45 gold.

In the pool, Americans also dominated. Winning two gold medals was US swimmer Mark Spitz, who would dominate the next Olympics in Munich. Eastern European gymnasts, led by the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Voronin (seven medals) and Czechoslovakia’s Vera Caslavska (four gold) were outstanding in their sport. In weightlifting, one of the Games’ true giants, 170kg Leonid Zhabotinsky, won his second heavyweight gold medal for the Soviet Union

Mexican hurdler Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo lit the Olympic flame in the Opening Ceremony, becoming the first woman to do so.

Australian Olympians At The Games

Flag Bearers

Olympian Name Ceremony
Bill Roycroft Opening
Eric Pearce Closing

Australian Officials At The Games


Official Name Position
Judy Patching Chef De Mission
David McKenzie Assistant General Manager
William Young Assistant General Manager

Team Support Staff

Staff Member Name Position
Shirley de la Hunty Assistant Manager
Ruby Robinson Assistant Manager
John Serpell Attache
Howard Toyne Doctor
Brian Corrigan Medical Director
George Saunders Masseur
Mabel Robinson Administration Assistant
Lisbeth Holden Administration Assistant
Sydney Grange Administration Staff
Bill Uren Administration Staff
Tom Wigley Administration Staff
William Young Assistant General Manager

Sport Specific Support Staff

Staff Member Name Position
Jim Howlin
Raymond Weinberg
Arthur Tunstall
Zoltan Szigeti
Ronald O'Donnell
Stuart Alldritt
Jack Walsh
Endre Szakall
James Thompson
Godfrey Moessinger
Arthur Sturgess
Neville Sayers
Robert Hemery
Alan Callaway
Anthony Manford
Don Lyall
Stuart Alldritt
Harry Gallagher
Bryan Marsden
George Samios

Games Trivia


The official emblem for the Mexico City 1968 Summer Games is a combination of the Olympic rings and the year. It is based on the patterns of the Huichole Indians.


The high altitude led to some incredible performances. World records were broken in all of the men's athletics races that were 400m or shorter, as well as the long jump and triple jump.


The Games represented a number of firsts. Wyomia Tyus became the first person to defend the 100m crown. The athletics track was made of a new synthetic material- tartan, and electronic and manual timing were used together. It was also the first time winners had to undergo doping testing.