Technicolor 1968

There was no choice but to fly to Tehran. Beatrice Trueblood left Mexico City on April 25, 1967 with a suitcase full of copies of the Boletín, the magazine published by the Mexico Olympic Committee. Inside, reports on the construction of sports arenas, an article on Mexican Christmas traditions, and an overview of the Spanish conquest were aimed at one purpose: convincing the International Olympic Committee—and the world—that Mexico should still host the 1968 games.

Brainstorming -- production chief Ricardo Verdoni, Trueblood and Terrazas.

“That was the deciding point,” Trueblood, now 70, recalls. “Mexico was going to lose the Olympics.”

Though Mexico had beaten out Detroit, Buenos Aires, and Lyon, France in 1963, four years later the country’s capital was scrambling to hang on to the prize of hosting the Games. Former President Adolfo López Mateos had been appointed head of the Olympic Committee by his successor, President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. But as López Mateos suffered from cerebral aneurysms, the preparations for the Games fell far behind schedule. In April 1967, with only seventeen months left until the October opening ceremonies, the International Olympic Committee was deciding Mexico’s fate. Would it still be the first Latin American country, the first developing nation, to host the modern Olympics?

Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, a genius at organizing colossal projects, was named the new President of the Mexico Olympic Committee in July 1966. The architect had masterminded the construction of 35,000 public schools as well as the Museo Nacional de Antropología, the country’s vast repository of pre-Hispanic treasures. He went to Iran for the IOC decision, armed with beautiful Mexican singer María de Lourdes, a mariachi band, and a talent for political maneuvering.

The hot-off-the-presses Boletín was the last piece he needed. Beatrice Trueblood, the 29-year-old head of publications for the Mexico Olympic Committee, waited behind for it to be printed. The stylish, cosmopolitan daughter of a Latvian diplomat, she packed light for the trip so she could stuff dozens of copies into her luggage. Then, as the IOC debated behind closed doors, she wandered anxiously around Tehran’s market.

The IOC’s final decision was unanimous: “Yes” to Mexico.

Mexico’s delegation threw a gala party, celebrating long into the night. Iranian royals, socialites, and diplomats mingled as Ramírez Vázquez’s doe-eyed Mexican diva sang and an Iranian orchestra played. Trueblood recalls the IOC members walking around, Boletín in hand, showing off the logos and imagery that were to cement the identity of Mexico68. “The back cover was radiating throughout this International Committee meeting in Tehran,” she remembers. “For me, it was like, wow! We did it.”

They had less than a year and a half to pull it off.

‘For Mexico’s Prestige’

Cities usually stage PR battles to host the Olympic Games, but never has an anointed host city had to fight to keep the Games as Mexico City did in the mid-1960s. A New York Times headline in 1965 read “Detroit ready if needed”; three years later, just before the opening ceremonies, the paper declared that there was only one word to describe Mexico’s preparation for the Olympics: chaos.