Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race

By Charlie Lovett | Go to book overview

17
The Games of the XIX Olympiad: Mexico City, 1968

The selection of Mexico City as the site of the 1968 Olympic Games had been met with something less than universal enthusiasm when it was announced in October of 1963. Critics claimed that the 7,347-foot altitude of the Mexican capital would pose a health risk to most athletes and provide an unfair advantage to those who hailed from similarly lofty regions. It would take more than such naysayers to quell the excitement of the Mexican sponsors, however Unfortunately, many more storm clouds broke before the opening of the Games. Shortly before the close of the Winter Games in Grenoble in February, the IOC decided to re-admit South Africa to the Olympic family. Because of the policy of racial apartheid, South Africa had been excluded from the 1964 Games, but their decision to integrate their Olympic team swayed the IOC.

Immediately a storm of protest broke out. African nations announced they would boycott the Games and the Soviet Union and other countries joined the protest. Soon nearly forty countries were threatening to sit out the Games and the Mexicans were wondering if the opening day would ever come. Black athletes in the United States were also trying to organize a boycott, to protest the lack of civil rights for black citizens in their country. Three months later the IOC met again and reversed its decision on South Africa. A major boycott was averted, but racial issues still threatened the peace of the Games, especially as Americans were further enraged by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

-77-

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