Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Final part of John Carlos: an alternative Olympic flame visits London

So Tommie Smith and John Carlos protested on the medal winners' podium at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City after their impressive 200 metres run (above).
 Speaking before a central London audience (below), John Carlos recalled: “I didn’t go up there with an Uzi or bullets across my chest. I didn’t give the finger. 
 "I went up there to let them know I’m a young black man that has concern for all people in society, even you, the biggest perpetrator, I got concern for you too.
 Carlos and Smith, and the now deceased Peter Norman who supported their protest, paid dearly. “They ridiculed me," said Carlos. "They drove my wife, Kim, to suicide. Ridiculed my kids in school and chased my so-called friends away. They stopped me from employment."

Carlos added: “But I regret nothing. The people with regrets are those who in 1968 did nothing. Every Olympian of 1968 is now asked, 'Were you one of those guys?' 
 “From the time I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I trained all my young life to be an Olympian but I found there’s something more pressing than being an Olympic champion.
 “I gotta little snow on the roof now…but the fire’s still burnin’ inside. I still have the desire to make the change. There’s an old New York phrase, ‘Each one, teach one.’ What you learn, you gotta communicate to someone else. 
"Our message today is we love sport. But the Olympics has been perverted by the International Olympic Committee."

Postscript 2012: The world remains in turmoil just as it did in 1968. Then, as now, the media is owned and controlled by rich and powerful people and consumed, some say, by largely deferential audiences and readerships. There's little doubt any athlete would be condemned and vilified like Carlos and Smith if they dared to protest at the London 2012 Games in a similar way. 
 Perhaps the chief global difference between Mexico City 1968 and London 2012 is that social media - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, et al - would flash such a moment around the planet to a far more sympathetic audience.
 But here's one final thought; why would anyone protest at London 2012? 

John Carlos was speaking at Bookmarks, an independent bookshop at 1 Bloomsbury Street, central London, on Saturday, 19 May. The John Carlos Story, by John Carlos with Dave Zirin, was published by Haymarket, Chicago, 2011.
Paul Coleman, London, May 2012

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