When Fosbury's 'flop' produced a hit

The Mexico Olympics in 1968 was the first to be telecast in colour worldwide. And for the first time at the Games, the all-weather ‘Tartan’ tracks replaced the traditional cinder tracks. This greatly influenced the track and field events at the Games.

American high jumper Dick Fosbury clears the bar to set an Olympic record of 2.24 metres at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. His technique, the 'Fosbury Flop', is adopted by all high-jumpers to this day.   -  the hindu photo library

The period between 1964 and 1988 witnessed several ‘firsts’. For the first time, at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the events were telecast worldwide without the need to send recorded tapes overseas. In addition, the telecast, for the first time, was in colour, though partially.

The Mexico Olympics in 1968 was the first to be telecast in colour worldwide. And for the first time in Mexico, the all-weather ‘Tartan’ tracks replaced the traditional cinder tracks. This greatly influenced the track and field events at the Games.

The other highlights during the period include American Bob Beamon’s mighty leap of 8.90m — a World record then — in long jump (1968, Mexico), Dick Fosbury’s gold medal-winning performance in high jump with his unconventional technique (Mexico, 1968), Mark Spitz’s record haul of eight medals (1972, Munich) and the 14-year-old Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci’s, seven ‘Perfect’ 10.0 on way to winning three gold medals (1976, Montreal).

1964: Held in Tokyo (Japan) from October 10 to 24, the Games attracted participation from 93 countries. A total of 5151 athletes, including 678 women, took part in 163 events spread over 25 disciplines. The United States stayed atop the table with 90 medals (36 gold, 26 silver and 28 bronze).

Originally allotted the 1940 Olympics, Tokyo finally got its chance 24 years later after Japan warded off the invasion by China and then survived the nuclear holocaust of 1945. This was also the first Olympics held in Asia.

For the first time, the Olympics was telecast in colour, though partially, and was made available to the world without the need to send recorded tapes overseas.

For the last time, the traditional cinder tracks were used at the Games. Judo, women’s volleyball and women’s pentathlon were introduced in Tokyo.

The Soviet gymnast, Larissa Latynina, won two gold medals to complete a hat-trick in the team championship and floor exercise. Her record individual Olympic tally of 18 medals (9 gold, 5 silver and 4 bronze) stood until 2012 when the American swimmer, Michael Phelps, broke it.

The Australian swimmer, Dawn Fraser, made it three-in-a-row in the 100m freestyle just like Ivanov Vyacheslav did in rowing single scull.

Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila became the first athlete to win the men’s marathon twice.

Joe Frazier claimed the heavyweight boxing gold.

1968: Held in Mexico City (Mexico) from October 12 to 27, the Games saw 112 countries taking part. A total of 5516 athletes, including 678 women, competed in 172 events across 24 disciplines. The United States maintained its supremacy with 107 medals (45 gold, 28 silver and 34 bronze).

The first Games held in Latin America, in a developing and Spanish-speaking country, the Mexico Olympics was the first to be telecast in colour worldwide.

The high altitude (7,350 feet above sea level) influenced several track and field events. The all-weather ‘Tartan’ tracks replaced the traditional cinder tracks.

At the medals ceremony for the men’s 200m, winner Tommie Smith and bronze medallist John Carlos, both black and of America, presented a ‘Black Salute’ by raising their black-gloved fists. They also wore black socks in lieu of shoes to display their stand for civil rights. The silver medal winner, Peter Norman of Australia, wore the ‘civil rights’ badge. Consequently, Smith and Carlos were banned for life from Olympic Games, while Norman was not considered for the next Olympics.

For the first time, East and West Germany took part as separate nations after being made to take part as one country in three previous editions.

Bob Beamon set the long jump World record of 8.90m, which stood for 23 years until Mike Powell broke it at the 1991 World Championship.

Fellow American Al Oerter won the discus gold for the fourth edition in a row.

Dick Fosbury used his unconventional technique to win the high jump gold. Even to this day, the ‘Fosbury flop’ is the technique adopted by all high jumpers.

Viktor Saneyev claimed the first of his three successive gold medals in triple jump after the previous world record was improved five times by three different athletes.

Sixteen-year-old Debbie Meyer became the first to win three gold medals in swimming.

1972: Held in Munich (West Germany) from August 26 to September 10, the Games saw the number of participating nations rise to 121. A total of 7134 athletes, including 1059 women, competed in 195 events across 28 disciplines. The Soviet Union displaced the United States at the top of the table with 99 medals (50 gold, 27 silver and 22 bronze).

Marred by what came to be known as the ‘Munich Massacre’, the Games had to be suspended for 24 hours after eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group, Black September, held nine Israeli athletes coaches and officials hostage in their apartments on September 5. Two hostages were killed soon after the break-in. Later in the evening, following a botched rescue attempt, the hostages and all but three terrorists were killed. It all happened after four of the hostages were shot and a terrorist detonated a grenade onboard the helicopter used to transfer them to the military airport of Furstenfeldbruck.

Mark Spitz set a record by winning seven gold medals and a bronze in swimming. The feat was broken in 2008 by Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals in Beijing.

The US basketball team players refused to accept their silver medals after losing the controversial final to the Soviets. The unclaimed medals remain in a vault in Lausanne, Switzerland.

1976: Held in Montreal (Canada) from July 17 to August 3, the Olympics hosted 6084 athletes, including 1260 women, from 92 countries. Competitions were held in 198 events across 27 disciplines. The Soviet Union retained its place at the top with 49 gold, 41 silver and 35 bronze medals.

Nadia Comaneci, 14, became the face of the Olympics after scoring seven ‘Perfect’ 10.0 to win three gymnastics gold medals including the all-around title.

Canada became the first Olympic Games host not to win a gold medal.

A rainstorm doused the Olympic Flame after the Games began. An official ignited it with his cigarette lighter, but the organisers doused it again and relit it with the backup of the original flame.

American gold medal-winning boxers, Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks and Leo Randolph, contributed to what is considered the strongest US team ever. All went on to become professional world champions.

Gymnast Shun Fujimoto, despite a broken right knee, performed on the rings and scored 9.7 to help Japan win the overall gold.

1980: Held in Moscow (Soviet Union) from July 19 to August 3, the Games saw 80 countries send 5179 athletes, including 1115 women, to compete in 203 events across 27 disciplines. The Soviet Union easily maintained its place at the top with 195 medals (80 gold, 69 silver and 46 bronze).

Led by the US, 65 countries boycotted the Games because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. In all, 36 world records were set after being broken 97 times. A total of 74 Olympic records were made after being shattered 241 times!

India won its eighth gold medal in hockey.

1984: Held in Los Angeles (United States) from July 29 to August 12, the Games witnessed participants from 140 countries. A total of 6829 athletes, including 1566 women, took part in 221 events from 29 disciplines. The United States topped the table with 174 medals (83 gold, 61 silver and 30 bronze).

In retaliation to the US-led boycott of the 1980 Olympics, the Soviet Union topped the list of 14 Eastern Bloc nations that boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics.

Carl Lewis won four gold medals to emulate the feat of Jesse Owens in 1936.

Edwin Moses regained the 400m hurdles gold after eight years. China’s first Olympic gold was also the first to be presented in this edition. Xu Haifeng won the 50m pistol gold.

Mary Lou Retton became the first gymnast outside the Eastern Bloc to win the all-around gold.

Sebastian Coe became the first man to retain the 1500m gold.

1988: Held in Seoul (South Korea) from September 17 to October 2, 8391 athletes, including 2194 women, from 159 countries took part in the Games. Competitions were held in 237 events from 31 disciplines. The Soviet Union regained its place at the top with 132 medals (55 gold, 31 silver and 46 bronze).

East German Kristin Otto emerged the first woman swimmer to win six gold medals.

Swedish fencer Kerstin Palin became the first woman to take part in seven Olympics.

Little-known Anthony Nesty of Surinam stunned the favourite, Matt Biondi of the United States, by 0.01 of a second to win the 100m butterfly event. He thus became the first black swimmer to win a gold medal.

Tennis returned to the Olympics after a gap of 64 years and German Steff Graf won the women’s singles gold medal. That year, Graf also completed a calendar Grand Slam, which many referred to as the ‘Golden Slam’.