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When you think of the Political Olympics, you immediately think of 1936 & 1972. Some may include 1968 “up there” in the ranks. While you`re at it, add 1980 and 1984. Heck, add Montreal 1976 with the African boycott and the whole Taiwan mess.
That is why Ben Johnson’s 1988 Seoul race was so special. For the first time since Bob Hayes and the 1964 Olympics, you had the real Games. A full representation. Canada, USA and the rest of the world.
For 1988, there was no boycott, no mess… though some would argue the 1992 Olympics were the real Games with Berlin Wall coming down in 1989. Germany would be united (was that a good thing?). The Soviet Union was chopped up rightfully to the independent countries. For example, Sergey Bubka would compete for his native Ukraine in 1992.
If you want to talk politics, the whole late 1960’s was complicated and to narrow it solely on 1968 itself is totally unfair. Focusing on the 16 days of glory does not do justice in my mind. There’s more to history and human rights than the Olympics.
Sadly, the 1968 Olympics did not end the politics and social change. Four years later, Munich would be haunted with another horrific ending.
Several books exists about 1968, from the journalists’ point of view to several autobiographies from well known track and field athletes:
- Amy Bass – Not the Triumph But the Struggle: 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete
- Douglas Hartmann – Race, Culture, and the Revolt of the Black Athlete: The 1968 Olympic Protests and Their Aftermath
- Tommie Smith – Silent Gesture: The Autobiography of Tommie Smith
- John Carlos – Why: The Biography of John Carlos With C. D. Jackson, Jr.
- Lee Evans – The Last Protest: Lee Evans in Mexico City
Richard Hoffer’s latest book is titled: Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Richard Hoffer is best known for his boxing coverage, so obviously details of George Foreman is covered in detailed.
I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s on my list of future reads. If you’ve read it, feel free to comment below.
Track and Field Books on 1968 from Amazon