A forgotten man - Peter Norman

My birth was just one of many earth-shattering events (he he...) that took place in 1968. The following article tells of another... the remarkable story of the forgotten man on the Olympic 200 metres podium the night of the famous black power salute by 2 black American athletes and the friendship that developed with their fellow medalist, Australian sprinter (and still national 200 metres record holder) Peter Norman.
Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, and it certainly deceived me for a long time.

I always saw the photo as a powerful image of two barefoot black men, with their heads bowed, their black-gloved fists in the air while the US National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” played. It was a strong symbolic gesture – taking a stand for African American civil rights in a year of tragedies that included the death of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

It’s a historic photo of two men of color. For this reason I never really paid attention to the other man, white, like me, motionless on the second step of the medal podium. I considered him as a random presence, an extra in Carlos and Smith’s moment, or a kind of intruder. Actually, I even thought that that guy – who seemed to be just a simpering Englishman – represented, in his icy immobility, the will to resist the change that Smith and Carlos were invoking in their silent protest. But I was wrong....




The rest of this wonderful article by Riccardo Gazaniga can be found here.

 

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