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RIP Peter Norman

Yesterday, Australia farewelled one of its champions.

Sprinter Peter Norman won the Silver Medal in the 200m at the 1968 Olympic Games. Assisted by the thin air of Mexico City, his 20.10 run still stands as the Australian record almost forty years later.

But he is best remembered for the ceremony afterward on the victory dais when, as the Star-Spangled Banner was played, his American rivals, Gold and Bronze medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos, bowed their heads and gave black-gloved power salutes in protest at racial discrimination. All three men wore identical Olympic Project for Human Rights badges.

"As we stand hear thinking about Peter Norman," Tommie Smith told the funeral service, "think about the greatness of the man who said: 'I stand with you - I don't stand before you, I don't stand behind you but I'll stand with you.'"

"Peter was Australian and he was proud to be Australian, he was proud to run and represent Australia."

"But even greater than that he said: 'I'm proud to represent the human race'".

All three men were strongly criticised for their stand. Smith and Carlos were sent home, where they received death threats. Norman was disciplined but allowed to stay.

A statue commemorating the protest - which has been ranked as one of the most iconic images of the 20th century - was erected in 2005 at San Jose State University, where Smith and Carlos were students. Norman supported the decision to have his position on the statue left vacant.

Yesterday, Smith and Carlos supported the man who supported them, as two of his pallbearers.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
morgan_dhu
9th Oct, 2006 21:24 (UTC)
I had remembered (vaguely) the Norman had been supportive of Smith and Carlos, but I hadn't known to what extent. Thanks for posting this.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )