19 October, 2008

The Other Guy

One of the 20th Century's most iconic images is the one where two American medal winners give the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. The two guys giving the salute are Tommie Smith (left) and John Carlos (right). I used to wonder about the other athlete, who won the silver medal and was standing in front of the two Americans. Was he even aware of what was going on behind him? He seemed like he had accidentally found himself with a walk-on part in history.

It turns out, though, that the other guy was also an active participant in the events. His name was Peter Norman, an Australian sprinter who had grown up in the socially committed Salvation Army. Norman joined in Smith and Carlos' protest by wearing a badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights that they gave him.

Norman suffered greatly for his association with the Black Power protest. The Australian Olympic committee blacklisted him, and chose not to send him to the 1972 Olympics even though he was ranked #5 in the world. In 2000, he was the only living Australian Olympian excluded from making a lap of honour at the Sydney games. However, he was welcomed by the American team, who invited him to stay with them.

Norman died in 2006. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were pall-bearers at his funeral.

His nephew, Matt Norman, has made a documentary film, Salute about the Black Power protest.

Picture and details of the film and Peter Norman's life from the BBC.


jennifer said...

Wow! That's fascinating stuff, Ian. Thanks for highlighting.

Eileen said...
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