“Salute” – Speaking Truth to Power at the Olympics- the Price Paid and the Solidarity Forged!
As Tibet solidarity and other human rights activists are rounded up in Beijing, a designated protest pen is transformed into a trap from where people disappear (77 applications were made to enter this “protest pen” – all have been withdrawn, suspended,”resolved” according to the Chinese state or rejected!), a Chinese girl is ditched from the Olympic Opening Ceremony for not having “the look” to go with the voice, the Party promotes, the corporates profit and prima dona athletes are expected to keep a housebroken silence – one’s mind is cast back to an iconic image from Mexico ’68.
Two black athletes from the U.S. track team, Tommie Smith and John Carlos (Gold and Bronze medalists) on the winners podium, heads bowed, black gloved fists raised in Black Power salute and the Aussie silver medalist Peter Norman between them. Smith explaining at the time as he faced a life time ban for his actions “Yeah, we’re Americans for 10 seconds then we’re just “niggers”!
The film ‘Salute’ http://www.salutethemovie.com/HOME.html by Peter Norman’s nephew Matt, has recently been released in Australia & worldwide, unearthing a dissident memory well buried in Australian sporting history. (Along with the five Wallabies who were banned for life for refusing to play Rugby against the racially selected Springbox in ’71, but that’s another story!)
The Australian Silver medalist, Peter Norman, joined Smith and Carlos protest by borrowing a OPHR (Olympic Project for Human Rights) badge he spotted on Paul Hoffaman, a white member of the U.S. Rowing Team, as he made his way to the winner’s podium. It was Norman who suggested they share the gloves as Carlos had forgotten his at the Olympic Village. This is why Smith is raising his right fist and Carlos his left.
Although running 100 metres & 200 metres qualifying times for the Munich ’72 Olympics, Norman was left out of the ’72 Olympics because of his action on the ’68 podium. As consequence, Australia sent no sprinters to the ’72 Olympics. The only time in its Olympic history.
Peter Norman was then blacklisted and left out of the 2000 Olympic celebrations in Sydney by the Australian Olympic Committee – long memories them OZ bureaucrats! (By the by this is ironic as Sidney Nolan’s “copkiller” Ned Kelly was celebrated in the Opening ceremony and of course “Midnight Oil in a more spontaneous contribution whipped on their “Sorry” t-shirts in the closing ceremony, I digress!) On hearing this the U.S. team invited Norman to join them at the Sydney Olympics! Go figure!
The three men kept quite a strong connection – Peter Norman died of a heart attack in 2006. Smith and Carlos came out to Melbourne to speak at the funeral and carry his coffin. A statue of the incident was unveiled at San Jose University. Norman’s space is left vacant so people can take the stand to take a stand!
Peter Norman’s nephew Matt has performed a greatservice
*Further background on the symbolism surrounding the Mexico ’68 podium action and Vid Promo for “Salute” (2.26) on link below…