I have written before about Australian sprinter Peter Norman who joined with Tommie Smith and John Carlos in their dramatic gesture against racism at the 1968 Olympics. All three were vilified for their actions, with Norman suffering at the hands of the Australian sports authorities long after he had been embraced by US athletes for his act of solidarity. Carlos and Smith considered him a close friend and flew to Australia to be pall bearers at his funeral. But finally, on the 50th anniversary of that event, Australia is honoring Norman.
Athletics Australia said Norman’s actions were now recognised as “one of Australian sports’ most iconic moments and a special moment in Olympic history”.
It said a bronze statue of Norman, jointly funded with the Victoria state government, would be erected outside the Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne.
“Initiatives to honour Peter Norman, such as this statue, are seriously overdue,” Athletics Australia president Mark Arbib said.
He said Australia would also recognise October 9, the date of Norman’s funeral in 2006, as Peter Norman Day.
USA Track & Field has marked the date since 2006 and Norman’s actions were appreciated in America far more swiftly than in his homeland.
Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at Norman’s funeral, with Carlos urging Australians to “go and tell your kids the story of Peter Norman”.
When the US Olympic Committee heard that the Australians had not invited Norman to Sydney 2000 celebrations, they invited him as part of their delegation.
Norman’s daughter Janita said the family had immense pride in his stance.
“That pride hasn’t diminished with the passage of time, so to accept this statue 50 years on has only added to that feeling,” she said.
The Australian Olympic Committee awarded Norman a posthumous Order of Merit in June this year
Tommie Smith gave an interview recently where he said that athletes today seem to be more afraid to take on the system because they might lose money. Only a few like Colin Kaepernick are willing to take risks.