Peter Norman (1942 – 2006 ) Olympic athlete
Peter Norman, a white Australian sprinter who became a hero in black America. He was a devout Christian, raised in the Salvation Army. There is a picture of him at the time, a handsome, open-faced young man with sandy hair, in a tracksuit that says “Jesus saves”. He believed passionately in equality for all, regardless of colour, creed or religion – the Olympic code.
SALUTE is the story of how a white Australian sprinter became a hero in black America, even as he was virtually written out of the annals of Australia’s Olympic history. On one level, it is a story of real idealism, the youthful sort that the Olympics are supposed to be about; on another, it’s about the corruption and betrayal of those ideals in the way the Olympics are actually run.
Peter Norman didn’t actually do very much, except run the race of his life in the men’s 200-metre track final in Mexico in October 1968. He came second in 20.06 seconds, which is still the fastest time any Australian has run the distance, and half a second faster than anything he had run before.
The winner was Tommie Smith, a tall black American from Texas. Third was John Carlos, another tall black American. The race itself was worth a documentary because it was full of drama, controversy and psychological warfare, much of it practised by the extremely crafty Norman, but it’s what happened afterwards that everyone remembers.
Smith and Carlos turned on the victory dais and raised a gloved fist in a Black Power salute, as Norman stood beside them. He was the white guy in the photograph that made front page all round the world the next day. Everyone soon forgot his name, except Smith and Carlos, a lot of other black American athletes, and a couple of Australian Olympic officials.
In practical terms, all Norman did was wear a badge that simply said “Olympic Project for Human Rights”, an organisation made up largely of African-American athletes protesting against racism in sport. In 1967, the project had proposed that all black American athletes boycott the Mexico Olympics, a move that never came off. Wearing their badge was choosing a side, though.
The film makes clear why Norman chose that side. He was a devout Christian, raised in the Salvation Army. There is a picture of him at the time, a handsome, open-faced young man with sandy hair, in a tracksuit that says “Jesus saves”. He believed passionately in equality for all, regardless of colour, creed or religion – the Olympic code.
Salute The movie : http://www.salutethemovie.com/
Salute teaser : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAHsYmaodkA
Salute - the Christian Connection : http://www.confessingcongregations.com/uploads/Salute_the_Christian_Connection_Shortversion_1808.pdf
‘Tell your kids about Peter Norman’
The funeral service for Peter Norman ended with the theme music from Chariots of Fire and a scene no less dramatic than any in that famous film. The two pallbearers at the front carrying Norman’s coffin from the Williamstown Town Hall were Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the two black Americans with whom he shared the victory dais at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. The photograph of that moment was declared by LIFE magazine and Le Monde to be one of the 20 most influential images of the 20th century. The Americans were shoeless, an expression of their empathy with the poor, and each wore a single black glove, which they raised in a black power salute during the American national anthem.
Christian Messages in Chariots of Fire
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