Olympics and Black Power

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The official Web site shows what is called the “Olympic Movement” goes beyond the games we are watching this summer. “Olympism” includes ideas and programs for “Education and Sport,” “Peace through Sport,” and “Sport for All.”  www.olympic.org

In 1968, another “movement” came to the Olympic Games.  In a track and field event in Mexico City, American Tommie Smith won a gold medal for the 200-meter dash. His winning time – 19.83 seconds – was the first time the 20 second barrier was broken. However, he is best known for showing a “Black Power Salute” of a raised fist wearing a black glove on the medal stand. His teammate John Carlos won a bronze medal in the same race and joined in the demonstration. Here is the clip of the race:

Both runners were stripped of their Olympic credentials for the games and expelled from the Olympic village within 48 hours. The International Olympic Committee even threatened the American team that they could be barred from further competition if these athletes were not disciplined. Both men were officially suspended from the American team. However, the medals won by Smith and Carlos were not taken away.

Through the years, Smith and Carlos have been both criticized and honored for the action they took in 1968. As alums of San Jose State University, in 2005, a statue honoring them as “unsung heroes” was dedicated at the school.  Here is a clip about what Tommie Smith is doing now with his annual Tommie Smith Youth Track Meet:

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