It was the third Olympic Games that I had visited, after Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 and I arrived a couple of days after one of the most iconic protests in the history of sport.
The 200m mens track event in Mexico City's Olympic Stadium had ended with gold and bronze for USA and silver for Australia. Perhaps you need reminding who Peter Norman was, but gold medalist Tommy Smith and bronze medallist John Carlos became household names....to this day.
As the protests continue in American sports this week over the flag, the national anthem and the standing, kneeling or sitting positions, lets look back almost half a century to a different world. Protests had been held in Mexico City prior to the Olympic Games and many were killed by police.
At the podium on 16th October, both Smith and Carlos received their medals then held up their fists with a black glove, no soxs and shoeless. Carlos had forgotten his gloves so Norman suggested they should each wear one of Smith's, while Norman wore a OPHR badge ( Olympic Project for Human Rights). Smiths time was 19.83 seconds..the first under 20 seconds. Norman's time was 20.06 and Carlos' 20.10.
Action from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) was immediate. IOC President Ivory Brundage, a NAZI sympathiser, told the USOC that if the two Americans were not flown home immediately, then the whole USA team would be kicked out. Justice was also given to the white Australian..by his own Olympic Committee. He was not selected for the Munich Olympics of 1972 despite the fact that his Mexico City time could have won gold in Munich. He was not invited to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Smith returned home and lost his job in a car wash, his mother received dead rats in the mail and died of a heart attack shortly afterwards. Carlos's wife committed suicide. Peter Norman died in 2006 and both Smith and Carlos attended his funeral and were pallbearers. In 2102 The Australian parliament issued a posthumous apology. His 1968 time is STILL the Australian record for the distance.
His nephew Matt Norman produced and directed a film about his uncle's life.called SALUTE in 2008. He was a devout christian and Salvation Army member and belived passionately in equality for all, regardless of colour, creed or religion...The Olympic code.
Now the two American sprinters are treated as civil rights icons and have received a number of honours and decorations. In 2005 on the San Jose State University campus a statue of them was erected. Peter Norman asked that he should not be included, so as to concentrate on his two life long friends.