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The Modern Olympics

1968 -- Mexico City, Mexico
5,530 athletes, 112 nations

Mexico City was full of social and political problems in 1968 and was an unusual choice to host the Games. Mexico had a crumbling economy and there was a high level of poverty in the country. Many Mexicans thought the money spent on the Olympics was wasteful. Mexican students protested on the eve of the Games and just 10 days before the Games the Mexican army fought with 10,000 protestors. Two hundred and sixty people were killed and another 1,200 were wounded.

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Black American athletes, the Soviets and thirty-two African nations threatened to boycott the Games. The threats pressured the Mexican organizers to convince the IOC to renege on its decision to allow South Africa to participate in the Games.

During the medal ceremonies for the men's 200m sprint American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos wore black gloves and clenched their fists in the black power salute as their national anthem was played.

Despite the conflicts, the track meet was probably the best in Olympic history and it saw the emergence of African runners in the distance events.

Canadian Highlights: Only one gold was won by Canada -- Jim Day, Jim Elder and Tom Gayford -- won the equestrian Prix des Nations. Seventeen-year old Elaine Tanner, who was expected to win gold, instead came home with two silver medals from the 100m and 200m backstroke. The Canadian media considered her silver medals a big disappointment. In contrast, Ralph Hutton's silver in the 400m freestyle was considered a great feat. Sport Canada began to question funding for elite sport, since Canada was not producing the medals expected.

Medal Count: Gold 1, Silver 3, Bronze 1

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