Tommie and John Carlos – A Salute of courage. Photo courtesy gymwatch.com

US Sprinter Tommie Smith, 68, is best known for that infamous black power Salute in the 1968 Olympic games held in Mexico City.

Michael Johnson US Sprinter has paid tribute to Smith and Carlos, “I know that my current success and the successes of black sprinters has been built on the shoulders of giants such as Smith, Carlos and Jesse Owen”.

Tommie  Smith is now a sprinting coach in California USA he states “ I see every child as a new avenue  for me to tell the world about the great human issues .  This is important to Smith for the Black Power Salute represented so much to him and those of colour – at that time of the American Civil Rights.

This movement which shook the world and became the blue print for equality and diversity, in its wake The Civil Rights movement, dismantled segregation, blew in a new era as it  emblazed freedom fighters against  apartheid in South Africa, over turned white rule in Rhodesia to become Zimbabwe; and set a trend for the Caribbean and Antilles to seek  their independence as they gained more economic power.

Through the legacy of,  Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and JF Kennedy , people

Tommie Smith. Photo courtesy bbc.co.uk

of colour  are now no longer legally to be treated as second class citizens in American, the Caribbean , Britain and Western Europe. Socially this is still a contentious issue. However because Africans, African Americans and Afro Caribbean’s in sport have excelled,  The Olympic Games has been a very valuable platform to bring national issues to the world Stage.

It has been hard for Tommie Smith and John Carlos  – over the years as they were shunned by the Olympic Authorities and never raced again.  Would Smith do the same thing again? a RESONDING YES!

John Carlos. Photo courtesy bbc.co.uk

Smith says “ I don’t think like that, I don’t  think I had an option  I wasn’t going to stand there  with my hand on my heart while they played my country’s national anthem and then go back to life as a second-class citizen so myself and John Carlos raised our fists in a silent, non-violent protest. It was for human rights.

And what does Smith think of today’s new Olympics as a commercial and politically animal – “If any athlete decides to take a step, they have to accept the life long sacrifice. You can do it but you will pay for it.

Smith and Carlos still keep in contact as oddly, but not surprisingly their birthdays are 1 day apart Carlos is June the 5 and Smith is June the 6,  what’s that they say, ‘Birds of a feather  flock together’.

Article prepared by Charlotte Greer. References; Two American Eagles soaring and  “Survival of the fastest” Channel 4 Documentary.