MELBOURNE: Australia will erect a statue of a homegrown sprinter who backed two Americans in their famed Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics, with authorities describing the honour as “seriously overdue”.
Peter Norman, silver medallist in the 200m in Mexico City, stood on the podium alongside US athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who both put a black-gloved fist in the air in a civil rights protest.
The gesture caused outrage at the time but Norman quietly showed his solidarity with the Americans by wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge.
Norman had spoken to the pair before the medal ceremony and agreed to wear the badge of the OPHR, a US civil rights organisation consisting of mainly black amateur athletes that campaigned to eradicate racism from sport.
As a result, he was frozen out of future Games selection and airbrushed from Australian Olympic history until recently.
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.