Mexico City 1968
The first Games in Latin America were played against a back drop of civil unrest and change - the Vietnam War (accompanied by protest the world over), the black civil rights movement in the US, the ‘cultural revolution’ in China, student demonstrations in France and the USSRs occupation of Czechoslovakia. In Mexico protests against government policies saw hundreds of people killed, while South Africa were banned due to its apartheid policies. The actual games were played at an extremely high altitude which favoured some athletes but put endurance event competitors at a disadvantage. Synthetic track (called Tartan) was used for the first time over traditional cinder.
Tommy Smith and John Carlos (first and third respectively in the 200m) is the most enduring image of the games, taking to the podium shod in single black gloves and giving a black power salute in protest of racial segregation in the US. Al Oerter won his fourth consecutive Gold Medal in the Discus for the States. Other successes for the Americans included Bob Beamon’s incredible jump in the long jump, Jim Hines’s breaking the 10 second barrier in the 100M and Dick Fosbury using an unconventional style in the high jump which became known as the ‘Fosbury Flop’. The Americans had put a lot of effort into building a successful team and had even trained at Lake Tahoe to emulate the high altitude conditions of Mexico. It is no surprise that they finished as the leader with 107 Medals [45 Gold].
Adidas at the Olympics
If the Americans had prepared meticulously, then so had adidas. In 1968 adidas had built a factory [called ‘Canada’] in Mexico to produce shoes for the games, which also gave them special dispensation for other shoes to be moved through customs. Unlike PUMA who found their shoes locked in the customs depot, some would say with a little helping hand from Horst and his agents. It took PUMA an almighty effort (and some tactics of their own) to get some of the shoes released in time for the games. The sports shoe companies received worldwide media attention when Sports Illustrated magazine broke the story of illicit payments to athletes with the headline ‘THE $100,000 PAY-OFF’. Any athlete who wanted to receive payment for wearing adidas or PUMA shoes was furnished with a brown envelope stuffed with cash, but many athletes refused to take part in the scandal. The IOC were furious but they could do little to stem the tide of athletes receiving payment for participation and the move actually began the long process of the governing body accepting that sponsorship was now part of the game. Adidas were once again the official outfitters of the German Olympic Team and their overall success was 85% of athletes at the games wore their brand.
How could you fail to notice these coming towards you! A gold kangaroo leather upper, Adi once again updated the technology of the track spike with special mention to the thick padding from the bottom of the heel to the ball of the foot, offering protection and comfort on the new Tartan synthetic tracks. Jim Hines took the Gold in the 100m wearing ‘Azteca’.
The ‘Mexicana’ was the official adidas training shoe of the Olympic games. Like the Azteca the shoe was finished in gold colour with its suede upper. The model is based on the earlier Gazelle shoe with a microcell technology sole.