No to Rio 2016 ? Zika Virus, Boycotts, Controversies and all that appertains to the Olympic Games

This year is surely not disappointing with its drama-filled headlines and issues around sport. The biggest one at the moment is the Zika Virus which is seen as Brazil’s latest hurdle in hosting the largest multi-sports bonanza.

Rio 2016 

While Brazilian authorities have been battling with polluted waters along the Rio shoreline ( as well as diminishing commodity prices, the Zika virus has shaken the very essence of the Games threatening it with boycotts or no-shows by major sporting nations.

Many have even brewed conspiracies such as;
Whatever the case, the impact of the pandemic will surely be felt at the Summer Olympics to be held in Rio in just under 6 months. Even Kenyan sports administrators have mixed feelings of attending the Games with some calling for tighter safeguards or else, while others insist on participating in the spirit of the Games.
Never before have the Olympic Games looked at risk of missing the largest gathering of nations since 1984. Speaking of missing the Games, we shall take a cursory look at some of the Games which either didn’t take place or were mired in controversy, leading to boycotts or low attendance.
1916 Berlin Games logo – courtesy
1916: The VI Olympiad at the Berlin Games in Germany – with the world tottering towards an arms race thanks in part to the German empire and emerging disquiet in parts of Europe, the Games were not held. This is to avoid endorsement of the German Reich as the Games had suddenly become important social and political platforms. 
1940 and 1944 XII and XIII Olympiad in Tokyo-Japan (then Helsinki-Finland) – by now the dalliance of the Games with political and warring regimes seemed to be buttressed. While Japan had won the rights to host the Games, it got into war with its larger (and by then less developed neighbour) China in the 2nd Sino-Japanese War. The IOC hastily awarded the Games to Helsinki, Finland only for the cold weather to rule the Games completely off. Given the 1940 Games debacle, the World War II meant that no Games were held in 1944, though the Summer Games had been awarded to the Britain’s London. 
Kenyan Olympic team 1956 – image courtesy of Kenya Archives
1956 XVI Olympiad in Melbourne, Australia ( and Stockholm, Sweden) – these Games had two hosts thanks to the quarantine of livestock and animals meaning the equestrian events – horse jumping were held in Stockholm. The rest of the world or what remained after the boycott of the Chinese Republic, England, Iraq, Lebanon, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland to make a statement of their political positions. See it’s a joke when the virus is on the loose…. 
Kenya participated in its first Olympic Games though still as a British colony. This was one year after the establishment of the National Olympic Committee Kenya (NOCK). This would be the only Games that Kenya never won a single medal too (thus far, yaiks…)
1976 XXI Olympiad in Montreal, Canada – Tanzania managed to rally 22 other African states to boycott the Games ( including our very own Kenyan state). This was due to New Zealand’s rugby team the All Blacks tour of South Africa , which was still suspended from the Games due to its apartheid system of governance. This meant the world was denied the exploits of one Henry Rono among other top athletes and sports personalities of that time. 
1976 Montreal memento – courtesy of www.olympics.com
The Games also were occasioned by one of the largest debts ever to hit  host city which was finally repaid 30 years later in 2006. They also had one weird mascot – don’t know whether it was a beaver but it surely doesn’t inspire much confidence.
1980 XXII Olympiad in Moscow, (then USSR) – The height of boycotts had reached its zenith and the US led about 62 nations into boycotting the Games in the Russian city. This was to protest the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan. Although some were in solidarity with the boycott, others were undergoing economic hardships thanks to unstable fuel prices and commodity prices of the late 1970s. The UK was part of the boycott though it sent its athletes under a neutral flag. 
Some of the countries that boycotted the Games ended up participating at the Liberty Bell Classic or Olympic Boycott Games – mainly the athletics disciplines. Kenya participated in these and won two gold medals in the 400m ( Billy Konchellah) and 5000m (Kip Rono) as well as silver in the 4 X 400m Men’s Relay.
Julius Korir – courtesy of sporting-page.net
1984 XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles, USA – To return the favour for the 1980 Games, the USSR and its 14 ‘satellite states’ including Angola, Cuba, East Germany, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe to name but a few decided to boycott. Though the boycott did not achieve much it also led to a similar parallel Games in the form of Friendship Games – sponsored by one exuberant media magnate in the form of Ted Turner. Kenya only participated in the Los Angeles Games after coming off an attempted coup in 1982 and a bruising election in 1983. The team’s performance was dismal with only one gold medal in Julius Korir’s 3000m steeplechase triumph.
1988 XXXIV Olympiad in Seoul, South Korea – The tumultuous 80s would mark the last of the Games boycotts but surely not without controversies. North Korea boycotted for not being considered as part-host of the Games. Albania, Cuba, Ethiopia. Madagascar, Nicaragua and Seychelles all boycotted for various reasons. The Games would also be the last that East Germany participated as a single state as it would merge with the West Germany to form the Federal Democratic state of Germany. USSR would also participate for the last time as a union of soviet states as it broke in 1989 after the collapse of the union under Pres. Mikhail Gorbachev.
Kenya had one of its best outings winning five gold medals including Africa’s first ever gold medal in boxing – with the late Robert Wangila Napunyi winning in the welterweight while Chris Sande won bronze in the middleweight. The athletics field had 4 gold including Paul Ereng (800m), Peter Rono (1500m), Julius Kariuki (3000m steeplechase) and John Ngugi (5000m).
The Games were also marked by the biggest scandal in doping with the positive testing of Ben Johnson who had won the 100m in record time then of 9:79 secs ahead of everyone else. He would be banned for life from the Games. 
The Games also marked the first time an openly gay athlete was forced to disclose his HIV-positive status in rather odd and almost tragic circumstances. Read more on Greg Louganis’s diving exploits at the Olympics

These but a few  are some of the many controversies that have dogged the Games. We do hope that this time round there will be no boycotts and the concerns of health and general environmental state of the city of Rio are addressed in time before the Games. Who would want to ruin what would surely be one Samba party to remember? 

For quick Qs and As on the Zika Virus check out this link by WHO.  

Road to Olympics – 1996 Atlanta – Kenya Dips again

Atlanta ’96
The 1990s represented a major shift not just in geo-politics and economics but also the world of sport. For what was to be centennial Games ( initially thought to be automatically held in Athens – the spiritual home of Modern Olympics), commercial interests overrode the IOC chiefs seeing USA host the Games the second time in less than 15 years.

Atlanta ’96 

The jury’s still out there whether they were any more (commercially) successful than the ’84 Los Angeles Games.For Kenya though, it was another dismal performance from its traditional hunting grounds in athletics. There was also reduced representation in other sporting disciplines something that seems to be symptotic to this day. Here’s a brief review of the Games;


Interesting Tid-bits:

  • Olympic Flame – The lighting of the Olympic flame was kept secret for the longest time until the day when former Olympian Muhammad Ali ran into the stadium making a triumphant entry – for a moment there helping the world remember him one more time. His suffering from Parkinson’s disease has paled his otherwise outspoken boxing career. He was also re-awarded his gold medal from the Tokyo Games ( after he threw away the original one in protest against Army recruitment for the Vietnam War).
  • Sprint Doubles – Donovan Bailey (Canada) won men’s 100m & 4x100m; Michael Johnson 200m & 400m;  Marie-Jose Perec women’s 200m & 400m making them uniquely double medallists.
  • Final Bow – Carl Lewis won his 4th long jump medal in an Olympics bringing the curtain down on one of the biggest Olympic legends. This was sweet revenge for him after missing the world record for the whole of his long-jumping days.
Izzy

Kenya’s Statistics:

  • 5 Disciplines were represented ; Athletics, Archery, Boxing, Shooting and Weightlifting
  • 52 participants took part ; 42 men and 10 women in these events;
  • 1 Gold – 3,000m steeplechase – easily Kenya’s traditional event – Joseph Keter
  • 4 Silver – Paul Bitok (5000m), Paul Tergat (10,000m), Moses Kiptanui (3000m s’chase), Pauline Konga (5,000m women)
  • 3 Bronze – Fred Onyancha ( 800m), Stephen Kipkorir ( 1500m), Erick Wainaina ( marathon)

This was another poor performance from the Kenyan team overall, what the outlook for the coming century? Only time would tell.

  

Road to Olympics – 1992 Hermosa Ciudad de Barcelona

Summer in the Spanish city of Barcelona is one of the best experiences to have in one’s lifetime. That the IOC chose this city to host the 25th Olympiad and the then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch came from the host country, was pure coincidence…

Barcelona ’92 logo

The Games though were held amidst renewed promises of economic prosperity after the end of the Cold War which had plagued the 1970s and 80s Games. The following are the main highlights;

Cobi – ’92 mascot

  • South Africa’s comeback – after ending the apartheid form of government in 1990, the country was allowed back and presented renewed opposition to African and other countries which had enjoyed its isolation
  • The Dream Team – professionalism finally matched with the amateurs and the combination as they say was a dream. NBA ‘superstars’ were truly on a well-deserved Summer break. Led by Michael Jordan, this team easily won the gold medal in the men’s basketball.
  • Germany came back as a unified state after East and West Germany’s unification in 1990. It would become a force to reckon with especially for the indoor events. 
  • Following USSR’s dissolution, a number of former Soviet states opted to participate under the ‘Unified Team‘ banner and ultimately beat the US on the medal standings. They were 12 of the 15 states.
  • The Games firmly put the Spanish city on the spotlight as one of the best tourist attractions in the world, a fact that some host cities have not been able to exploit.  

Statistics:

William Tanui & Nixon Kiprotich – 800m Gold & Silver

Kenya would see its 1988 success take a dip, though not for lack of participation, more like other countries making the cut and pushing the competition higher. The following are the stats of Kenya’s showing;

  • 2 Gold Medals  – Matthew Birir – 3000m steeplechase and William Tanui – 800m; 4 Silver; Richard Chelimo(the late), Nixon Kiprotich-800m, Patrick Sang -3000m s’chase and Paul Bitok – 5000m and finally Bronze medal ; Samson Kitur -400m and William Mutwol -3000m s’chase 
  • The 10,000m was marked by poor officiating where a Moroccan athlete refused to leave the track even after being over-lapped. Khalid Skah eventually won the race but was disqualified by officials briefly before being reinstated as eventual winner. 
  • Kenya as a whole participated in 29 events in 5 sports ; athletics, boxing, judo, shooting and weightlifting
  • A total of 49 participants represented the country : 40 men and 9 women
  • Besides Athletics, Kenya did not win a medal in any other discipline.

Julius Yego – Profile of a future Olympian

For most of us, YouTube is a form of entertainment as well as watching ‘edu-tainment’ clips or the latest music videos. For sports lovers, it serves as a nice platform for catching and replaying precious moments in their favourite sports events.

Julius Yego – trail-blazing Kenyan javelin thrower 

Enter Julius Yego – this Kenyan athlete (… no, not the typical track specialist) had other ideas for YouTube. Participating in an event which has never been a speciality for Kenya let alone Africa, he managed to hone his skill and better his technique using this social media platform.
And true to word, his skill got better and his techniques won him the first ever gold medal for a field event for Kenya in the 2011 All-Africa Games in the Mozambican capital of Maputo. This he did by breaking the national record to a then new record throw of 78.34m ( he has since broken it once to 79.95m and attained standard B throw length for the London Olympics).
Thanks to his exploits and his parent sports association in the name of Athletics Kenya, he managed to secure 2 months training stint in Finland which effects led to his attaining qualifying standards. Hoping to better his throwing before the start of the July-August event, Yego will surely join the many sports men and women who have made Olympic folklore not just by becoming champions but also by the mere part of participating in this 4-year sporting extravaganza.
And he stills recognises the role that social media plays in his everyday life of ensuring he becomes a world beater in the throw sport of javelin….thanks to YouTube!
He’s truly a Kenyan and African sports legend in the making. Here’s an article from Chinese’s Xinhua on Julius Yego.

Rudisha & Bolt for a 4×400 relay showdown at London Olympics ???

In what could be one of the biggest highlights of the 2012 London Olympic Games, plans maybe underway for a showdown between the fastest man on Earth in the 100m & 200m races against the longer version of the 800m.

David Rudisha

Though nothing is confirmed yet, David Rudisha could most likely be included in anchoring the 4 x 400m men’s relay and be up against Jamaica’s Usain Bolt who’s main specialities are the 100m , 200m and 4 x 100m races. It could be far-fetched as none of the two is a one-lap specialist but seeing the potential that it would bring in terms of viewership, prestige and national pride in winning an additional medal not just for oneself but for their country, anything is possible.
First off though will be making the cut for their respective national teams in the Olympic Games pre-trials starting in June. Then comes the tricky part of maintaining tip-top fitness conditions amidst the Grand Prix races and finally winning in their respective specialities.

TV rights holders and sponsors of these athletes would be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospects of this showdown. Let’s see what comes of it.

Point to Note:
Remember Kenya won gold in the 4 x 400 m men’s relay in the Munich Games in 1972. Can they repeat this feat by adding this world beater?

Road to Olympics – Los Angeles 1984… Kenya’s Back !

1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games logo

After missing two consecutive Games, Kenyan sports people were thrilled to be back on the international arena. But the toll of the boycotts was all clear given the lack of participation. This was reflected on the number of athletes sent and also the performance of the team at large.

As a whole, Los Angeles was one of the most successful Olympic Games. This was thanks to the marketing acumen and organisational skills of one Peter Ueberroth – Time’s Magazine Person of the Year 1984. Let’s take some highlights here below;

  • ‘Returning the favour’ for the US-led boycott of 1980 Moscow Games, the USSR led 14 countries in a boycott and went on to hold the Friendship Games. 2 other nations in Iran and Libya meant 16 countries in total boycotted Los Angeles.
  • More than a Sporting Festival – the Games had an elaborate Festival ‘ the LA Olympic Arts Festival which was held to mark and appreciate the role of arts and sports. In the same vein, the Opening and Closing ceremonies had some of the most elaborate shows of that time. Concerts were organised to feed Games attendants and the world audience with a feast of entertainment.
      Sam the Eagle – 1984 Olympic Games mascot
  • Carl Lewis legend is born – this man who’s loved and loathed in almost equal measure ran and jump to equal Jesse Owens 1936 Olympic Games exploits winning 4 gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and the long jump.  These would be the first of nine gold medals in his Olympic years.
  • Nawal el Moutawakel from Morocco became the first female from a Muslim state to win gold in an Olympic Games. She won this in the 400m women’s hurdles.
  • Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin all future NBA Hall of Famers would win their first gold medal as part of the USA Basketball team as amateurs. They would return in 1992 as the Dream Team which included the creme de la creme of the NBA.
  • Lord. Sebastien ‘Seb’ Coe would become the 1st man to win consecutive titles in the 1500m men’s race. 2 decades later he led London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games. 


Figures:
  • 140 nations participated with a total of 6,800 athletes representing these countries;
  • Kenya had 61 athletes ( 56 men and 5 women); participating in Athletics, Boxing, Hockey, Shooting and Weightlifting;
  • Kenya won ONLY 1 Gold ( Julius Korir – 3000m steeplechase), 2 Bronze ( Mike Musyoki – 10000m and Ibrahim Bilali – Flyweight in boxing);
  • The Kenyan men’s Hockey team was placed 9th out of 12 nations participating. They were the sole African representatives
Julius Korir – 3000m Gold medal winner in 1984
The Los Angeles Olympic Games marked a positive turn for the IOC which had been reeling from two fairly unsuccessful Games in Montreal and Moscow with the former being a commercial disaster for the Canadian hosts.
It also saw major corporates joining the big league in sports through sponsorship deals which ensured the commercial success of the Games. These included McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Kodak among other major corporations. Nike also achieved much of success due to its links with American athletes who excelled in many of the sporting disciplines. 

Kenyan Marathoners – Conquering the World but shall the rest of the team Emulate them?

The last two years have been quite phenomenal in Kenyan athletics. This is mainly due to the ever-enduring and sterling performances by our long- distance athletes and the speciality in discussion is the longer race – the marathon.
Running an approximate distance of 41.6 km ( 26 miles ) if you like on long routes, up some slope and down others and a usual flat course finish is no mean feat. If you have ever tried running this race, you’d know what we’re talking about…maybe the next time a marathon comes near you, make a point of registering for it…start with the Nairobi StanChart one!

Number 1 !

Back to the gist of the story, so while our athletes have enjoyed unbridled success in the longer race, it has been a mixed bag of fortunes in lap races in the stadium meets…Grand Prix and others.
One of the stickiest points is the 5000m and 10000m races especially for the men’s races. Much redemption has been made by our ladies who have continued growing in stature and stamina to conquer these longest races on the lap races.
But Athletics Kenya and the athletics fraternity in Kenya has not been able to break the jugger-naut. This is especially so, in major meets like the upcoming Olympic Games in London from July. Arguments were given and some frail explanations made about this failure which led to AK ceding control of the qualifiers for the 2 races. They’ve opted to host them in Prefontaine thanks to some ingenious Nike executive who’s surely to mint some good brand mileage ( and maybe some $$$ too…)

Maybe the AK officials are looking for the wrong places to realise the elusive success in these events. They should ask themselves;

  • How come the marathoners have been able to win over 75% of all major marathons around the world?
  • What techniques have they devised to be able to win with such consistency and at such paces that last year the world record in the men’s race was lowered by our very own athlete?
  • What lessons can Team Kenya pick from the World Athletics team which managed double gold ( 1-2-3 for women) and (1-2 for men)  in the marathon races?
  • Do Kenyan athletes need foreign tracks to prove their worth?
  • Circa 1988 when Kenya had its best spread of medal haul from 800m to 5000m races in the men’s races. What was the recipe for success then?
  • Assume they do go ahead and run both the pre-qualifiers in Kenya and the qualifiers in Prefontaine, will they not be suffering from burn-out by the time they get to London in July?

These lingering thoughts ought to be food for thought for the officials charged with seeing the success of our team in this year’s Olympic Games. Over to you Mr. Kiplagat and team ! ( Do we add Mr. Kip Keino & NOCK in the mix too…?) 

UPDATE:
Athletics Kenya announced the Kenyan marathoners to represent Kenya in the 2012 Olympic Games in London as follows;
Women:
Edna Kiplagat ( Current World Champion , women’s marathon)
Mary Keitany ( 2-time winner of London marathon)
Priscah Jeptoo ( Silver medallist in 2011 Daegu World Athletics , women’s marathon)

Men:
Abel Kirui ( 2-time World Champion marathon winner)
Moses Mosop ( 2011 Boston Marathon winner)
Wilson Kipsang ( 2-time Frankfurt Marathon winner & 2012 London Marathon winner)

Road to Olympics – 1976 Montreal & 1980 Moscow Games Boycotts Galore…

99 days to London Olympic Games, we continue with the Road to Olympics. 
In this review , we look at the forgettable moments in Kenya’s history when her sports personalities were affected by economic and geo-political reasons meaning consecutive boycotts in Montreal in 1976 and in Moscow – 1980.

Montreal 1976:

After the breach of tranquil at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, countries across the world decided to use the Games a perfect platform to prove a point or two especially where the Cold War and other political ideologies clashed.
Montreal had seemed to have escaped this up until the opening ceremony when Congolese Jean Claude Ganga and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere among other African leaders urge African countries to leave the Games. This was in protesting a move by the New Zealand rugby team’s All Blacks tour to apartheid South Africa ( even though rugby was NOT an Olympic discipline).
Most countries had already sent in their squads and though it was a moral issue to support the boycott, this dented many a sportsmen and women who were approaching the prime or in the sunset of their careers.
Kenya’s prowess in the middle and longer distances would not be for show as athletes such as Henry Rono, (Dr). Mike BoitMike Musyoki and also boxers such as Stephen Muchoki – who would never taste Olympic glory.
There were a few highlights though that need be noted from Montreal Games;

  • 10-point score Nadia Comaneci – this is a feat that had never been achieved and has never been attained either. The then 14-year old Romanian ended up winning 3 gold including the prestigious All-Around which effectively put her into Olympic folklore.
  • 5 American boxers won Gold medals in their respective weights. 4 of those would turn professional and have fairly successive careers. These were Sugar Ray Leonard, brothers Leon Spinks and Michael Spinks and Leo Randolph. The fifth boxer was Howard Davis Jr – Val Baker Trophy winner in Montreal – who turned down offers to turn professional.
  • Princess Anne – member of British royalty participated as part of the Horse riding or Equestrian team. She was the ONLY one not forced to comply to a sex-test.
  • Future Japanese PM Taro Aso  took part representing Japan in shooting 
  • 92 countries took part ; 6073 athletes took part in 198 events in 23 disciplines. The drop was obvious due to the late boycotts.

Moscow 1980
After the boycott of the 1976 Games, though the then USSR had tried putting up a marvellous show, its invasion of Afghanistan meant another boycott led this time by USA. The Games were at the height of their propagation by Governments across the world to push their political and economic agendas. The USSR needed to prove that it could pull off a major event of this magnitude but with the other super-power USA able to pull the mat from under them, it didn’t quite have the impact the Soviets wanted.
The US held what they called the Liberty Bell Classic also referred to as ‘ Olympic Boycott Games’.  
Going the Games proper though, due to the reduced number of participants it proved to have few controversies and traditional rivalries never realised. Here’s a review of some of the interesting highlights;

  • Ethiopia’s Miruts Yifter won the 5000m and 10000m – grabbing the double for the men’s events. This was emulating Lasse Viren’s feats in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games
  • 5259 athletes participated in 203 events for 23 sports – this represented one of the lowest figures of overall participants since 1968 in Mexico. 
  • East Europe and Communist-leaning nations were among the major winners thanks to the boycott to more capitalist states.
  • The Games had the lowest number of drug cheats since the practice was introduced in 1964 in Tokyo.
  • The closing ceremony introduced a practice of hoisting the next host city’s flag and lowering the Olympic flag. 
  • This was the last time Kenya boycotted an Olympic Games 

P&G ‘runs’ with National Olympic Committe of Kenya – London’ s 2012 Olympics preparations

This morning, Procter & Gamble (P&G) – (EA) will sign a sponsorship deal with the National Olympic Committee of Kenya as the latter continues making preparations for the London 2012 Olympics. In a deal worth KSh. 14 million, with KSh. 9 million going to youth development while the balance of 5 million goes to preparation of the London Olympics team. A positive move in the right direction indeed from Kenyan corporate firms…

Image from www.pg.com

P&G-EA handles the greater Eastern Africa region of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Its flagship products include personal care products such as Always, Gillette and Pampers as well as cleaning products such as Ariel and Oral B along with Vicks and DuraCell. Though considered one of the lesser subsidiaries on a global scale, the company’s connections with England (and Ireland) may have played a factor. Also the need to secure early  positions for what will likely be branding and marketing opportunities to identify with Kenyan sports personalities, comes into play.

National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) has also been calling on corporate firms to make good their commitment to support sport. They recently launched a loyalty card – Kimbia Card – to raise the much-needed funds for preparing and taking the national team to London in August. The initiative is  to work in tandem with expected corporate support and Government funding which will match shilling-for-shilling raised.

Kimbia Card www.kimbiacard.com

Hoping the NOCK does not waste this opportunity to raise funds and carry excess officials leaving out sports participants as has previously happened in continental and international championships. 

This deal is part by P&G global support to the Olympics for the next 5 years. Kudos to the P&G- EA office for taking the lead in securing our athletes a place in Olympic history!

In Related News….
Rumour has it that some rather enthusiast supporters of two of the main suspects to the International Crimes Court in the Hague  have suggested boycotting the London Olympics. This is a dangerous and most illogical thought which should be treated with the all the contempt that it deserves. NO single individual or group of Kenyans SHOULD HOLD the country at RANSOM for accusations or intended court processes locally or internationally.
Enough Said!

Road to Olympics : 1968 Mexico Games – Kenya sees Gold !

After participating in 3 consecutive Olympic Games, the country was slowly yearning for better achievements and for this the country’s sports personalities were well rewarded. Mexico City – Mexico was also a first of many sorts and it earned a mixed bag of fortunes.

Mexico 1968image from www.olympics.org

Let’s look at the facts and figures from the Games;

Figures & Results:

‘Speed-Cop’ Kipchoge Keinoimage from Rich Clarkson
  • 5556 participants from 112 countries was a marked improvement from the Tokyo Games ’64;
  • 172 events were held in 20 sports disciplines;
  • Kenya participated in 4 sports disciplines – Athletics, Boxing, Hockey and Shooting;
  • Kenya was placed 14th overall, a major improvement on the 1964 Games where she placed  35th.
  • Kenya won 3 Gold namely; Kipchoge Keino-1,500m (M), Naftali Temu-10,000m and Amos Biwott-3000m steeplechase (which was to become Kenya’s mainstay for any major events she participated in) ; 4 Silver; Wilson Kiprugut-800m, Kipchoge Keino-5,000m , Ben Kogo-3,000m steeplechase and the 4x400m men’s team ( Daniel Rudisha, Charles Asati,Naftali Bon and Munyoro Nyamau); 2 Bronze; Naftali Temu-5,000m and Philip Waruinge -Featherweight boxing;
  • Philip Waruinge was awarded the Val Barker Trophy for the Most Outstanding boxer ‘pound-for-pound’, despite winning the bronze in Featherweight. He remains the only African boxer to have won the trophy to date. 
  • Kenya’s Hockey team finished 8th overall, a drop from the 6th position from Tokyo Games;
  • One John Harun (Mwau) was ranked 76th in Shooting’s Mixed Small -Bore Rifle, Prone 50m. (He’s currently an MP in Kenya’s Parliament having had an illustrious career in the Kenya Police, Interpol as well as the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission).

Interesting Facts:


  • As quoted in an online forum, this was the first Olympic Games to have ‘first large-scale incursion of politics directly in the Olympic venues’.
  • Mexico was the first developing country to host the Olympics. It was also at its ‘highest altitude’ ever at 2,240m (7,350 ft) a.s.l.(above sea level).
  • Tommie Smith and John Carlos – US 200m (gold & bronze winners respectively)sprinters raised their fists clothed in black gloves during the medal awards ceremony- as a symbol of protest against human rights violation to the Black populace in United States. They also asked Australia’s Peter Norman to wear a badge in solidarity with them. This cost them a life ban from any future Olympic Games or IOC-related events which was a bit too harsh if you ask me…
  • Also joining in political protest was one Vera Caslavska – from former state Czechoslovakia ( now Czech & Slovak Republics after fall of communism in Eastern Europe) – her silent protest during medal awards was against Soviet invasion of the state.
  • As noted before, Mexico City has the highest altitude ever for an Olympic event at 2,240m a.s.l – some in athletics were worried about its effects on the athletes including Kenya’s own ‘speed cop’ Kip Keino but this turned out to a blessing in disguise with record-breaking performances from some of the other events.
  • Bob Beamon (US) leapt 8.90m in the men’s long jump to what would be one of athletics’ most enduring world records. It still is the Olympic record.
  • Sequence of Fosbury Flopimage from www.shorecrest.org
  • Dick Fosbury (US) won the high jump with the unconventional Fosbury Flop. This would eventually be adopted by most if not all high jumpers.
  • One Jacques Rogge (current IOC President) represented Belgium for the first in 3 Olympic Games appearances in yachting. 
  • John S. Akhwari(Tanzania) finished the men’s marathon with a dislocated knee and this became a lasting symbol of the Olympic Games spirit – quipped here saying “my country did not send me 10,000 miles just to start the race, they sent me to finish the race. He is currently an Olympic Goodwill ambassador.
  • Tlateloclo massacre – this happened 10 days to the opening of the Games and almost derailed the event. 44 people were killed as students and civilians rioted against ‘repressive actions and blatant violation of university autonomy’ by the Mexican government. A blown-up kite was flighted during the Games with the black shadow representing a ‘silent protest’ by the students.
  • Drug-testing debuted to check on performance-enhancing drugs which was becoming a thorn in the flesh for amateur sports.

All in all, the Games marked an improved performance from Kenya and many African countries as most continued enjoying their newly-found independence from their colonial masters.
The Games had now become a major political platform for many States which knew that with the world glued to the television and other media channels, it was the perfect place to send out whatever message – be it silent, symbolic or otherwise.
Commercialisation of sports was also at its formative stages and going into the 1970s, this would form the basis of future sports business for most if not all sporting disciplines and events.

Sources:
International Olympics Committee www.olympic.org
National Olympic Committee-Kenya
Britannica Encyclopedia www.britannica.com
About.com www.about.com
Wikipedia www.wikipedia.com