- Grenoble, France had the honor of hosting the 1968 winter games. The city itself didn't have enough sports facilities so the events were held in various parts of the region. There were seven different Olympic villages which led to some criticism that the 'youth of the world' weren't really meeting together. This was the first Olympics with both drug and gender testing. For the first time there were two separate German teams and (surprise!) they didn't get along with each other. From the pictures, it looks like the skating events were still held outside.
- The 1968 summer games went to Mexico City. There were big arguments in Mexico about the wisdom of spending money on sports facilities when there was so much poverty elsewhere. These arguments turned into riots. There was also concern about Mexico City's high altitude and how that would effect athletes from around the world. It seems to have worked against distance runners but for jumpers. Bob Beamon set a new world record in the long jump, improving the old mark by nearly two feet. His record would stand for another 23 years. Dick Fosbury pioneered a new high jump technique that is now standard. The biggest image from these games is almost certainly that of American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists in a 'black power' salute, while on the medal stand. The two were quickly banned from the team and sent home. Oh, and for the first time, a woman lit the Olympic flame!
- In 1972 the winter games went back to Japan, this time in Sapporo. Big fees were charged for television rights; up more than 300% from the 1968 winter games. One of the big issues was 'amateurism' as the IOC banned an Austrian skier on the day before the games opened. Many of the skiers thrived on sponsorship and this was largely seen as example making. There were also large disagreements about which hockey players were still amateurs. The Canadians felt there was a huge double standard between NHL players and the state sponsored players of the Eastern bloc nations so they pulled out of the hockey competition. For the first time a winter sport was medaled only by non-Europeans as the host Japanese swept the small hill ski jump. Emperor Hirohito opened the games. Again, the skating looks like it was outdoors and the pictures are spectacular.
- Munich held the 1972 summer games and these are the most tragic in Olympic history. Palestinian terrorists attacked the Israeli team and killed 11 athletes. There were calls to suspend the rest of the games but the IOC, with support of the Israeli government, decided they should continue. Many athletes did leave, fearing that the security wasn't good enough to protect them. In other political news, South Africa was still banned and the IOC was forced to expel Rhodesia for apartheid reasons. As far as the actual competition goes, Mark Spitz won four gold medals for swimming. Olga Kurbut became a gymnastics sensation. But really, the terrorism overshadowed everything else.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
And . . . we're back. For more of this series, click on the 'Olympics' tag at the bottom.