Monday, August 11, 2008

Real Olympic Memories: 1968

Already tired of the political sterility of the 2008 Olympics? The complicity with Beijing's slave labor and seemingly eager turn towards fascistic capitalism? The sad spectacle of American television commentators falling all over themselves? Take a trip with me to 1968...

If you're not altogether clear on the significance of this picture, read about it here.

That's Tommie Smith in the center and John Carlos on the right.

Lest you think that they paid no price for this...
Smith and Carlos were largely ostracised by the predominantly white U.S. sporting establishment in the following years and in addition were subject to criticism of their actions. Time magazine showed the five-ring Olympic logo with the words, "Angrier, Nastier, Uglier", instead of "Faster, Higher, Stronger". Back home they were subject to abuse and they and their families received death threats.

A forgotten hero in all this was Peter Norman, the Australian on the left, who wore a human rights badge (he knew it wouldn't be appropriate for him to raise his fist) to honor Smith and Carlos. Peter Norman may have paid the stiffest price of all.
Norman, who was sympathetic to his competitors' protest, was reprimanded by his Country's Olympic authorities and ostracized by the Australian media.[10] He was not picked for the 1972 Summer Olympics, despite finishing third in his trials. He kept running, but contracted gangrene in 1985 after tearing his Achilles tendon, which nearly led to his leg being amputated. Depression and heavy drinking followed. He suffered a heart attack and died on October 3, 2006. Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral.

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." ~Frederick Douglass

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