Memory Lane: Sporting events of the 60s

As part of our memory lane series, we will be taking a look at specific decades and outlining the most memorable moments in sport, film, music and more.

In this blog, we are looking at the 60s and what sporting moments defined that decade.

  1. 1960 Rome Summer Olympics

Held in Rome, Italy, the 1960 Summer Olympics saw the likes of Muhammad Ali and Wilma Rudolph competing. Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, won gold in the light heavyweight boxing division at the Games at just 18 years old.

American Wilma Rudolph also starred at the Games, winning three gold medals and setting three world records in the process. She had winning performances in the 100 metres, 200 metres, and 4 x 100 metres relay, making her the first American woman to win three events in a single Olympics. Her story is particularly inspiring as she overcame polio in her early childhood.

  1. 1964 Ali’s “Phantom Punch” fight vs Liston

Cassius Clay, who would change his name to Muhammed Ali a month later, wins the heavyweight boxing crown from Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964, at age 22. He knocked out Liston with a first-round right hand to the head which is still known as the “phantom punch”.

In fact, an awful lot of people who were in the fight never saw, or later claimed they never saw, the punch that floored Liston. It was theorised that Liston threw the fight, with some speculating that he was in debt to the Mafia and threw the fight to pay it off.

This fight between Ali and Liston produced one of the most iconic photographs – Ali stood over an unconscious Liston – that lives in the memory of boxing fans, and sports fans alike.

Ali was a prominent sporting figure during the decade, and three years later, in 1967, Ali dominated headlines as he refused to enter the military during the Vietnam War. As a Muslim, he was a conscientious objector to service, and subsequently stripped of his heavyweight title. Ali was initially found guilty of refusing military service, but this sentence was overturned in 1971 by the Supreme Court.

  1. 1964 Welsh rugby’s first tour to South Africa

The 1964 Welsh rugby tour of South Africa is remembered as a significant milestone in Welsh rugby history, showcasing the skill and determination of the Welsh players on a challenging and historic tour. The first five tests were played on Welsh soil with Wales visiting South Africa for the first time in 1964. The Springboks extended their winning run over Wales to six matches with a then-record 24-3 win at Kings Park in Durban.

It was a historic moment as they became the first British and Irish Lions team to visit the country since the end of World War II. It also marked the largest defeat for the Welsh in 40 years, since losing 35-10 to Scotland at Inverleith in 1924.

  1. 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics

Astonishingly, the 1964 Winter Olympic Games, held in Innsbruck, Austria, were threatened by a lack of snow. The Austrian army in fact, rushed to the rescue, carving out 20,000 blocks of ice from the mountainside and transporting them down to the luge and bobsleigh tracks. They also carried 40,000 cubic metres of snow to the Alpine skiing slopes and left 20,000 cubic metres of spare snow as a back-up.

The Innsbruck Games, the ninth edition of the Winter Games, is also remembered for featuring the first-ever official women’s luge event, introducing a new discipline to the Winter Olympics and sadly for the deaths of Australian alpine skier Ross Milne and British luge slider Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski.

  1. 1966 England wins World Cup on home soil

The 1966 World Cup is one that lives on in the memory of English football fans as currently the only World Cup glory for the nation. England were hosts of the tournament and topped West Germany in a 4-2 final win at Wembley Stadium where Geoff Hurst became English football royalty by scoring a hattrick.

It saw the birth of two iconic moments: the line “they think it’s all over” – one of the most famous lines in World Cup and football history was spoken by commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme during the final, and the iconic photograph of Bobby Moore lifting the trophy.

In a weird turn of events, prior to the tournament’s conclusion, the Jules Rimet Trophy, which was awarded to the winners, was stolen from an exhibition display. It was eventually recovered, found wrapped in newspaper by a dog named Pickles in a London garden.

  1. 1967 Wimbledon

The Wimbledon tennis tournament was a landmark moment in the history of sports TV in the UK, as it was the first scheduled television transmission in colour. The men’s singles title was won by John Newcombe, who defeated Wilhelm Bungert in the final.

The tournament also made other headlines with defending champion, Manuel Santana, losing in the first round, while in the women’s competition, Billie Jean King successfully defended her title in the women’s singles, defeating Ann Jones in the final 6-3, 6-4.

  1. 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics

Held in Mexico City, Mexico, the 1968 Summer Olympics saw American track and field athlete Bob Beamon set a new world record in the long jump. Fellow American high jumper Dick Fosbury won gold with his ‘flop’ style that was to revolutionise the event, replacing the conventional straddle technique. The technique is still universally used today.

The most potent memory of the games was the medal ceremony of the men’s 200 metres when American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists in a symbol of the black-power movement. They were stripped of their medals as they were found guilty of violating the Olympic spirit by making a political statement.

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