Athletics at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Dates 13 – 20 October 1968
Medal Events 36

The biggest concern for the first Olympics held in America, but not the United States, was the fact that Ciudad de México sits at an altitude of 2,244 metres (7,360 feet). No previous Summer Olympics had been held at more than 200 metres of altitude. While fast times were expected in the sprint races, there was great concern about the lack of oxygen’s effect on the distance runners. Both expectations came true. World records were set in the 100, 200, 400, and several were set in the triple jump. In the long jump, Bob Beamon simply jumped into the next century, winning the gold medal with a meteoric 8.90 metres (29-2½), surpassing the world record by almost two feet, and winning the competition by 71 centimetres (28 inches). His world record would last for 23 years, broken in 1991 by Mike Powell at the 1991 World Championships. On the track, the 5,000 and 10,000 were won in very slow times, as the altitude affected the runners. And both races were won by African who had grown up at altitude – Mohamed Gammoudi (TUN) in the 5K and Kenya’s Naftali Temu in the 10K. One of the saddest sights of the Games came at the end of the 10K, when Australian distance runner Ron Clarke, world record holder and the favorite going into the Olympics, collapsed at the finish line. The doctors who ran to revive him were startled to see the condition of this superb athlete and openly wept in front of the Stadium crowd. Fortunately, he fully recovered. The marathon was also won by an African, with Ethiopia’s Mamo Wolde winning the third straight gold medal in that race for his nation. Two-time defending champion Abebe Bikila started but had to stop because of a stress fracture in his leg. On the field, Al Oerter won his fourth consecutive gold medal in the discus throw, the first athlete to win four consecutive gold medals, excluding the 1906 Olympics. Among the women, Wyomia Tyus became the first person, male or female, to defend the gold medal in the 100 metres.

The biggest controversy of the 1968 Olympic athletics came in the medal ceremony for the 200 metres. The race was won by American Tommie Smith with his teammate John Carlos earning a bronze medal. Both Smith and Carlos had been part of discussions by American blacks about boycotting the 1968 Olympics, but eventually all of them competed. But on the medal podium, to protest the treatment of American blacks, while the American anthem played, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised a single black-gloved fist. It was not well-received and Smith and Carlos were asked to leave the Olympic Village by the IOC, but they have since been lauded for their quiet protest.

Events

Event Status Date Participants NOCs
100 metres, Men Olympic 13 – 14 October 1968 67 42
200 metres, Men Olympic 15 – 16 October 1968 50 37
400 metres, Men Olympic 16 – 18 October 1968 55 36
800 metres, Men Olympic 13 – 15 October 1968 44 32
1,500 metres, Men Olympic 18 – 20 October 1968 54 37
5,000 metres, Men Olympic 15 – 17 October 1968 39 25
10,000 metres, Men Olympic 13 October 1968 37 23
Marathon, Men Olympic 20 October 1968 75 41
110 metres Hurdles, Men Olympic 16 – 17 October 1968 33 24
400 metres Hurdles, Men Olympic 13 – 15 October 1968 30 24
3,000 metres Steeplechase, Men Olympic 14 – 16 October 1968 40 27
4 x 100 metres Relay, Men Olympic 19 – 20 October 1968 76 19
4 x 400 metres Relay, Men Olympic 19 – 20 October 1968 65 16
20 kilometres Walk, Men Olympic 14 October 1968 34 20
50 kilometres Walk, Men Olympic 17 October 1968 36 19
High Jump, Men Olympic 19 – 20 October 1968 39 25
Pole Vault, Men Olympic 14 – 16 October 1968 23 15
Long Jump, Men Olympic 17 – 18 October 1968 35 22
Triple Jump, Men Olympic 16 – 17 October 1968 34 24
Shot Put, Men Olympic 13 – 14 October 1968 19 14
Discus Throw, Men Olympic 14 – 15 October 1968 27 19
Hammer Throw, Men Olympic 16 – 17 October 1968 22 12
Javelin Throw, Men Olympic 15 – 16 October 1968 27 18
Decathlon, Men Olympic 18 – 19 October 1968 33 20
100 metres, Women Olympic 14 – 15 October 1968 42 22
200 metres, Women Olympic 17 – 18 October 1968 36 21
400 metres, Women Olympic 14 – 16 October 1968 29 21
800 metres, Women Olympic 17 – 19 October 1968 24 16
80 metres Hurdles, Women Olympic 17 – 18 October 1968 33 23
4 x 100 metres Relay, Women Olympic 19 – 20 October 1968 60 15
High Jump, Women Olympic 16 – 17 October 1968 24 14
Long Jump, Women Olympic 13 – 14 October 1968 27 19
Shot Put, Women Olympic 20 October 1968 14 10
Discus Throw, Women Olympic 18 October 1968 16 9
Javelin Throw, Women Olympic 14 October 1968 16 11
Pentathlon, Women Olympic 15 – 16 October 1968 33 24
1029 (786/243) 92 (91/41)

Medals

Event Gold Silver Bronze
100 metres, Men Jim HinesUSA Lennox MillerJAM Charlie GreeneUSA
200 metres, Men Tommie SmithUSA Peter NormanAUS John CarlosUSA
400 metres, Men Lee EvansUSA Larry JamesUSA Ron FreemanUSA
800 metres, Men Ralph DoubellAUS Wilson KiprugutKEN Tom FarrellUSA
1,500 metres, Men Kip KeinoKEN Jim RyunUSA Bodo TümmlerFRG
5,000 metres, Men Mohamad GammoudiTUN Kip KeinoKEN Naftali TemuKEN
10,000 metres, Men Naftali TemuKEN Mamo WoldeETH Mohamad GammoudiTUN
Marathon, Men Mamo WoldeETH Kenji KimiharaJPN Mike RyanNZL
110 metres Hurdles, Men Willie DavenportUSA Erv HallUSA Eddy OttozITA
400 metres Hurdles, Men Dave HemeryGBR Gerhard HennigeFRG John SherwoodGBR
3,000 metres Steeplechase, Men Amos BiwottKEN Benjamin KogoKEN George YoungUSA
4 × 100 metres Relay, Men United StatesUSA CubaCUB FranceFRA
4 × 400 metres Relay, Men United StatesUSA KenyaKEN West GermanyFRG
20 kilometres Walk, Men Vladimir GolubnichyURS José PedrazaMEX Nikolay SmagaURS
50 kilometres Walk, Men Christoph HöhneGDR Antal KissHUN Larry YoungUSA
High Jump, Men Dick FosburyUSA Ed CaruthersUSA Valentin GavrilovURS
Pole Vault, Men Bob SeagrenUSA Claus SchiprowskiFRG Wolfgang NordwigGDR
Long Jump, Men Bob BeamonUSA Klaus BeerGDR Ralph BostonUSA
Triple Jump, Men Viktor SaneyevURS Nélson PrudêncioBRA Giuseppe GentileITA
Shot Put, Men Randy MatsonUSA George WoodsUSA Eduard GushchinURS
Discus Throw, Men Al OerterUSA Lothar MildeGDR Ludvík DaněkTCH
Hammer Throw, Men Gyula ZsivótzkyHUN Romuald KlimURS Lázár LovászHUN
Javelin Throw, Men Jānis LūsisURS Jorma KinnunenFIN Gergely KulcsárHUN
Decathlon, Men Bill ToomeyUSA Hans-Joachim WaldeFRG Kurt BendlinFRG
100 metres, Women Wyomia TyusUSA Barbara FerrellUSA Irena SzewińskaPOL
200 metres, Women Irena SzewińskaPOL Raelene BoyleAUS Jennifer LamyAUS
400 metres, Women Colette BessonFRA Lillian BoardGBR Nataliya PechenkinaURS
800 metres, Women Madeline ManningUSA Ileana SilaiROU Mia GommersNED
80 metres Hurdles, Women Maureen CairdAUS Pam KilbornAUS Chi ChengTPE
4 × 100 metres Relay, Women United StatesUSA CubaCUB Soviet UnionURS
High Jump, Women Miloslava RezkováTCH Antonina OkorokovaURS Valentina KozyrURS
Long Jump, Women Viorica ViscopoleanuROU Sheila SherwoodGBR Tatyana TalyshevaURS
Shot Put, Women Margitta GummelGDR Marita LangeGDR Nadezhda ChizhovaURS
Discus Throw, Women Lia ManoliuROU Liesel WestermannFRG Jolán Kleiber-KontsekHUN
Javelin Throw, Women Angéla NémethHUN Mihaela PeneșROU Eva JankoAUT
Pentathlon, Women Ingrid BeckerFRG Liese ProkopAUT Annamária Kovács-TóthHUN

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States USA 15 6 7 28
Kenya KEN 3 4 1 8
Soviet Union URS 3 2 8 13
Australia AUS 2 3 1 6
East Germany GDR 2 3 1 6
Romania ROU 2 2 0 4
Hungary HUN 2 1 4 7
West Germany FRG 1 4 3 8
Great Britain GBR 1 2 1 4
Ethiopia ETH 1 1 0 2
Czechoslovakia TCH 1 0 1 2
France FRA 1 0 1 2
Poland POL 1 0 1 2
Tunisia TUN 1 0 1 2
Cuba CUB 0 2 0 2
Austria AUT 0 1 1 2
Brazil BRA 0 1 0 1
Finland FIN 0 1 0 1
Jamaica JAM 0 1 0 1
Japan JPN 0 1 0 1
Mexico MEX 0 1 0 1
Italy ITA 0 0 2 2
Chinese Taipei TPE 0 0 1 1
Netherlands NED 0 0 1 1
New Zealand NZL 0 0 1 1