The first Olympic Games to be staged in Latin America, were the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
The high elevation of Mexico City, at 2,240 m (7,350 ft) above sea level, influenced many of the events. Although a performance reducer for endurance athletes, the thin air contributed to many record-setting jumps, leaps, vaults, and throws. The 1968 Summer Olympics were the first games at which there was a significant African presence in men’s distance running. Africans won at least one medal in all running events from 800 meters to the marathon, and in so doing they set a trend for future games. Most of these runners came from high-altitude areas of countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, and they were well-prepared for the 2,240 m elevation of Mexico City.
In the medal award ceremony for the men’s 200 meter race, African-American athletes Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (bronze) took a stand for human rights by raising their black-gloved fists and wearing black socks and no shoes. The Australian Peter Norman, who had run second, wore an American civil rights badge as support to them on the podium. As punishment, the IOC banned Smith and Carlos from the Olympic Games for life, and Norman was left off of Australia’s Olympic team in 1972.
There were a few highlights that took place for the first time in the Mexico Olympics. Norma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo of Mexico became the first woman to light the Olympic cauldron with the Olympic flame. It was the first games where the closing ceremony was transmitted in colour to all the world and this was the first of three Olympic participations by the present president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge. He competed in yachting.