Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Fellow athletes pay tribute to Peter Norman -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Fellow athletes pay tribute to Peter Norman

Reporter: Greg Hoy

KERRY O'BRIEN: It happened in 1968, a year of political ferment around the world, and it remains
one of the most dramatic images in the history of the modern Olympics. Two black American athletes,
Tommie Smith and John Carlos, on the victory dais in Mexico City, their gloved fists raised in the
symbol of power. Beside them stood Australian Peter Norman, whose stunning turn of speed had won
the silver medal in the 200m final, and whose principles and quiet support won the respect and
friendship of those Americans. So, when Peter Norman died of a heart attack last week, Tommie Smith
and John Carlos headed to Australia to give another salute.

GREG HOY: It's often said you get to know someone best at their funeral, and so Australia learnt
yesterday the true story of Peter Norman. His interview for an upcoming documentary was played to
the congregation.

PETER NORMAN: I've been lucky enough to be in the right places at the right times on a lot of

GREG HOY: Mexico Olympics, 1968. Unbeknown to most of the eight finalists in the men's 200m, this
was to be a race, meticulously planned by the black American favourite Tommie Smith.

PETER NORMAN: Lord, just help me get through it. All those months, even years preparing for that
day, then later on, that hour, then later on, that race was terrible pressure.

GREG HOY: Also praying for help that day, Peter Norman did not realise what he was getting involved

PETER NORMAN: All of a sudden I'm one of the eight best 200m in the world for that particular day
and it's all about to be put to the test.

GREG HOY: The race was to last just 20 seconds. But the build up had been highly charged
politically. America had six months prior witnessed the assassination of Martin Luther King and the
black unrest that triggered.

MUHAMMAD ALI (NEWSREEL): You look at Miss Universe, you see white. You look at Miss World, you see
white. You look at Tarzan, who is the King of the Jungle, you see white.

GREG HOY: Black athletes had formed the Olympic Project for Human Rights and vowed to use success
on the track and field to spread their message. As two black Americans took the lead in the race
race, the lone Australian came from behind with astonishing speed to divide them at the finish
line. First, Tommie Smith, USA, in world record time, second Australia's Peter Norman, third, John
Carlos USA.

GREG HOY: He wasn't that far behind you.

TOMMIE SMITH: And he was coming on me. Peter Norman's speed magnified over the last 40m because of
his tenacity and power. He was a very powerful runner.

GREG HOY: What happened next would burn an indelible image in the history of sport.

MATT NORMAN: They asked if Peter would mind if they made this their time for a gesture. Peter
completely supported it and said, "Well, if there's anything I can do, you let me know. " One of
the things that came up, that John had left his gloves off and left them at home and back in the
village and so Peter said, "Well, if you're only putting one hand up, why don't you just wear one
of Tommy's and you wear the other one of Tommy's." That's why they've got the separate gloves on
separate hands.

GREG HOY: The black power salute sent a shiver down the spine of white America, though the true
symbolism was lost in the ensuing hysteria.

PETER NORMAN: The raised arm and the clenched hand was a symbol of unity with the fingers coming
together in a symbol of strength. It was never I don't believe it was ever meant as a threatening

GREG HOY: Retribution was swift. Smith and Carlos were stripped of their medals and expelled from
the Olympic village. Though he was allowed to stay, Peter Norman would find his Olympic career was

MATT NORMAN: Peter made a sacrifice because of his beliefs. Peter's idea of equality was Peter's
belief, and not Tommie Smith and John Carlos's, though we believed in the same thing. Three of us
believed in the same and we supported what we believed in and by doing so, it brought us together.

GREG HOY: It was, then, no surprise that when Peter Norman died unexpectedly in Melbourne last week
of a heart attack at the age of 64, his two former foes from the Olympics were there to carry his
coffin at the funeral. Theirs was a friendship forged in defiance. After just 20 seconds on the
track, three minutes on the victory dais and 38 years of controversy, their message is still being
heard. So how would Peter Norman have liked to have been remembered?

PETER NORMAN: I guess I'd just like to be thought of as an interesting old guy.

GREG HOY: And, lest we ever forget, his record still stands. 38 years on, Peter Norman remains the
fastest Australian ever to have run the 200m.

MATT NORMAN: Peter did 200m in 20 flat, so new generations of athletes are trying to claim that
title. I don't think it's claimable, to be honest. I don't think we're going to get another Aussie
that gets to those heights. So Peter's going to leave more than just a statement. He's going to
leave a time that can't be broken, which is nice.

KERRY OBRIEN: Greg Hoy reporting on an interesting and impressive old guy. That's the program for
tonight. We'll be back at the same time tomorrow. For now, goodnight.