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Enriqueta Basilio, first woman to light Olympic cauldron, dies at 71

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Enriqueta Basilio, who at the 1968 Mexico City Games became the first woman to light an Olympic cauldron, died Saturday at age 71, according to Mexico’s Olympic Committee.

Basilio was 20 years old when she lit the cauldron in the Opening Ceremony at her home nation’s first Olympics. She later was eliminated in the heats of the 400m, 80m hurdles and the 4x100m relay.

Basilio later took part in the 2004 Athens Olympic torch relay when it visited Mexico City. Last year, she symbolically relit the Olympic cauldron in Mexico City to mark the 50th anniversary of those Games.

Basilio and Australian Cathy Freeman (Sydney 2000) remain the only women to be the sole cauldron lighters at a Summer Olympics.

Though cauldron lighters are now closely guarded secrets, it was reported three months before the Mexico City Games that Basilio would receive the honor.

Back in 1968, Basilio reportedly shrugged when asked why she thought she was chosen.

“Maybe it’s because here in Mexico the mens and the womens have the same rights,” she said through a translator, according to The New York Times. “Maybe it’s because she comes from Baja California, the youngest state in the country. And maybe it’s because some people says she represents the typical Mexican type, a new kind of generation. The new Mexico youth is tall, more thin. The last generation was short, more fat.”

NBCSN to air special on 1968 Mexico City Olympics

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NBCSN premieres a two-hour special, “1968: The Legacy of the Mexico City Games,” on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET.

The show, marking the 50th anniversary of those historic Olympics, combines the NBC Olympics documentary “1968” and a recent panel discussion about the legacy of the Mexico City Games.

WATCH LIVE: “1968: The Legacy of the Mexico City Games,” — Wednesday, 8:30 ET

“1968,” which premiered during the PyeongChang Winter Games, tells the stories not only of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved fists on the medal podium, but also of the intersections of sports and politics leading up to and during the Mexico City Olympics.

NBC Olympics primetime host Mike Tirico moderated a recent panel at the annual LA84 Foundation Summit in Los Angeles. It included Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad (the first Muslim-American woman to compete at the Olympics with a hijab), tennis player James Blake and Olympic champion diver Greg Louganis.

The summit’s theme focused on athlete activism and social justice, while also commemorating the 1968 Olympics.

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MORE: John Carlos, Tommie Smith remember 1968 Olympics on 50th anniversary

Watch ‘1968’ and ‘Bring the Fire: A Conversation with John Carlos’

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NBCSN airs “1968,” the NBC Olympics documentary on the Mexico City Games narrated by Serena Williams, followed by a 15-minute excerpt of “Bring the Fire: A Conversation with John Carlos” on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

Both full programs can also be streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

“1968,” which premiered during the PyeongChang Winter Games, tells the stories not only of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved fists on the medal podium, but also of the intersections of sports and politics leading up to and during the Mexico City Olympics.

“Bring the Fire” focuses on Smith, Carlos and the podium gesture, featuring a conversation between NBC Sports track and field analyst Ato Boldon and Carlos.

STREAM LINK: “1968”
STREAM LINK: “Bring the Fire: A Conversation with John Carlos”

Then on Oct. 31, NBCSN premieres a two-hour special, “1968: The Legacy of the Mexico City Games,” at 8:30 p.m. ET. That show will include “1968,” along with a roundtable discussion about the legacy of the Mexico City Games.

Mike Tirico hosts a panel including Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad (the first Muslim-American woman to compete at the Olympics with a hijab), tennis player James Blake and Olympic champion diver Greg Louganis.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: John Carlos, Tommie Smith remember 1968 Olympics on 50th anniversary