7 June 2012

Peter Norman - my favourite Olympian

With the Olympics coming, the papers are doing the rounds of reminding us of great Olympic occurrences of the past. They are slightly skewiff towards British successes, understandably, but even those not entirely interested in sport can find enlightenment behind the stories of some of the most famous and infamous Olympic moments.

I'm currently fascinated by the Black Power salutes of 1968, unaware for a long time that the iconic images of Messrs Smith and Carlos raising their gloved fists during the American national anthem caused such a massive stink.

But, as they would say themselves, they knew what they were doing and why they were doing it, they were aware of the risks and the possible consequences (though the actual consequences suggested they had underestimated American prejudices considerably). The same perhaps couldn't be said of Peter Norman, the silver medallist from Australia who wore a pro-human rights badge on the rostrum and was consequently shunned and called by his home nation for almost the rest of his life. His comparatively mild contribution to the most politicised moment of Olympic history is an astonishing story which his nephew made into a docu-film after his early death.

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