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PROTRACK » GENERAL » AOC won't support motion in Parliament on Peter Norman

AOC won't support motion in Parliament on Peter Norman

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AOC won't support motion for controversial sprinter

By Richard Willingham
The National Times
20 August 2012

The Australian Olympic Committee will not support a parliamentary motion to recognise the life of 1968 Olympian Peter Norman, the Australian who controversially stood in solidarity with two black American athletes during a medal ceremony.

Norman won silver at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in the 200-metres sprint, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record.

During the medal presentation, he wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the ‘‘black power’’ salute.

While largely unheralded in Australia, Norman’s stance made him an unlikely hero of the US civil rights movement.

After the medal ceremony, he explained his actions by saying: "I believe that every man is born equal and should be treated that way."

He missed out on the 1972 Games and some believe it was because of his behaviour.

Labor backbencher Andrew Leigh will tonight call on Parliament to ‘‘recognise the extraordinary athletic achievements’’ of Norman, who died in 2006, and acknowledge his bravery for his stand of solidarity with his US competitors.

‘'[Parliament] apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying,’’ the motion says.

An AOC spokesman said it did not see any need to support the motion because it never had any problem with Norman.

‘‘It has been suggested Peter Norman was 'punished' by the AOC for his role in the black power salute given by two American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, during the medal ceremony for the 200m on the track in which Norman won the silver medal.  This is incorrect,’’ he said.

The committee said Norman was initially cautioned by AOC chef de mission Julius Patching to be careful about his public statements.

Mr Leigh acknowledged there was uncertainty about Norman’s non-selection for the 1972 Games and said he would be focusing on the athelete's place as a role model for equality.

‘‘In the simple act of wearing that badge, Peter Norman showed the world he stood for racial equality,’’ Mr Leigh said. ‘‘He showed us that the action of one person can make a difference.  It’s a message that echoes down to us today.

‘‘Whether refusing to tolerate a racist joke or befriending a new migrant, each of us can - and all of us should - be a Peter Norman in our own lives.’’

The moment was the basis of a critically acclaimed 2008 documentary film by his nephew Matt Norman, called Salute.

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