Small groups will use the intense media focus to draw attention
to their cause, this can be in the form of organised non-violent
protests. The key in handling these situations is to maintain
order amongst civilians whilst still maintaining a good public
image. In the case of the Mexico City games, the protests
were ill-managed by the Mexican government, resulting in
riots and the death of civilians.
Case study - Mexico City 1968
In 1968 there was a large amount of political unrest, particularly
amongst students. Recent events had included the assassinations
of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, as well as civil
unrest due to the Civil rights movement in the US, and the
invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union.
During the summer before the games were held, there were
a number organised student protests. Initially these were
aimed against the US invasion and subsequent occupation of
the Dominican Republic three years earlier. The Mexican president
Diaz Ortaz was extremely concerned about his country's political
image, especially with the coming games. He therefore undertook
strict control and policing of the student protests, which
were growing larger by the day. In order to suppress the
escalating riots, the Army and military presence was stepped
up, leading to the occupation of the National Polytechnic
Institute (NPI) in Mexico City. Few attempts were made to
negotiate with student groups and the increasing military
intervention only provoked more riots amongst students.
As the protests grew, they were also supported by Trade
unions, such as the Railroad workers union. On October 2nd,
10 days before the games, police opened fire on a protest
in the trios cultures square on Mexico City university campus.
An estimated 300 students were killed in the resulting gunfire
as well as hundreds of others injured.
After the massacre, the Government arrested approximately
2000 students, but most were released later that year. The
government tried to justify its response by calling the student
movement a “communist conspiracy”. There were calls for the
games to be cancelled, but they eventually began on time.
This event had major consequences on the political impact
of holding the games. The Mexican government were trying
to control their public image; Mexico City was already the
focus of other controversial aspects of the games, such as
the implications on performance of holding it at high altitude.
In this case, by trying to stifle and suppress the protests
with military intervention, the protests escalated, becoming
much more violent and destructive, this highlights the need
for adequate assessment of the political environment of the
In Mexico City the government could have managed the situation
better by holding talks with the leaders of the student protests.
This would have allowed better crowd control and would have
Modern crowd control and planning will often involve talks
with holders of non-violent protests so that people are able
to express their opinion safely without causing any danger
or letting the protest escalate out of control. When planning
Olympic Games politicians should judge the publics reaction,
also they should not use the games as a "political whitewash" to
boost flagging tourism and increase their popularity with