chapter  3
The Rank Outsider: Mexico City’s Bid for the 1968 Olympic Games
Pages 16

The vote to decide which city would host the summer Olympics in 1968 was made at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in Baden-Baden from 16 to 20

October 1963. As the final stages of lobbying took place, speculation in the Mexican newspapers reached fever pitch. Some sounded a note of caution, reflecting that

Mexico City had reached this stage on two previous occasions only to return emptyhanded. Furthermore, concerns over the high altitude and Mexico’s ability to afford

the games counted heavily against its chances of success. [1] Trying to second-guess which way members might vote became an integral part of the frenzied excitement.

Colonial allegiances swayed African delegates towards Lyon but, surely, as one of the Spanish-speaking candidates, Mexico City could expect its fair share of support from

Latin America. Striking an optimistic note, El Nacional noted that the Mexican bidding team was becoming increasingly confident that its lobbying was having an effect. Indeed, the paper took heart from a story that the wives of IOC delegates were

said to favour Mexico City: ‘It is rumoured by one wife that she and the other wives do not kiss their husbands goodnight without whispering the name ‘‘Mexico’’ in their

ears.’ [2] With such support, how could Mexico lose? Yet when the IOC announced the results of the first round of voting it still took the world by surprise: Buenos Aires

2, Lyon 12, Detroit 14 and Mexico City 30. Such was the margin of Mexico City’s victory that a second round was not needed. Not only would the 1968 games be

coming to Latin America for the first time but it would also be hosted by the first underdeveloped country in modern Olympic history. As IOC president Avery Brundage reflected several weeks later, ‘I must say that there are many who are still

stunned . . . at the success of Mexico’. [3] The fact that Mexico City was the first city in the developing world to be given the

responsibility of hosting the Olympic Games is, in itself, exceptional. Yet the true measure of the IOC’s step into the unknown becomes apparent when one considers

the pattern of previous candidatures for the Olympic Games. The only two cities from the developing world ever to have bid for either the summer or winter Olympics

were Buenos Aires and Mexico City. Indeed, with the exception of Melbourne, Tokyo and Sapporo (all of which would eventually host the games) these two Latin

American cities were the only candidates outside North America and Europe to have made a bid during the modern Olympics era (Mexico had tried for both the 1956 and 1960 games). These facts underline the dominance of the Western world over the

IOC during the first half of the twentieth century and, perhaps, the difficulty of

putting forward a credible bid that could compete with the wealthier cities of the world. Indeed, one could argue that little has changed. Despite moves to democratize

the IOC and to make it a more inclusive organization, Mexico City remains the only city from the developing world to have hosted the Olympic Games.