While the Olympics are over for another four years, there will always be stories from this most public of world stages that resonate for years to come. For London 2012 it was the year of a comeuppance for Australian triumphalism. But at the same time we saw the fantastic emergence of some new local stars in lesser followed sports. Olympic feats can also extend way beyond those who simply win.
There are those stories that transcend the games themselves, rise above the realm of sport and resonate on a worldwide stage.
Few of these moments have drawn as much controversy and applause as the famous Black Power salute in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the gold and bronze medallists in the 200 metre famously, joined in a Black Power salute during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. The Australian silver medallist Peter Norman donned a badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights in support of their cause. Extraordinary enough as it was to have an Australian on the podium of the 200 metre final, even more remarkable was the rare sympathy that Norman had with his fellow runners.
The story relates how before the ceremony the black runners asked Norman if he believed in human rights and he said he did. When they suggested that they would do something greater and more significant than any athletic feat, he is said to have responded that he would stand with them.
For this Norman suffered public approbation and it is suggested was not chosen to run in Munich four years later. But the resonance of that iconic moment has slowly built in a positive revival of his memory.
When Norman died in 2006, both Smith and Carlos were pall bearers, a final touching tribute to a fellow athlete with whom they shared a unique bond. October 9 is also marked as Peter Norman Day by the United States Track and Field Federation. Now it is Australia’s turn to reconsider the legacy of Norman.
Some will argue that this behaviour is inappropriate at what are supposed to be friendly games but let us not forget that the Olympics have always been a political stage, whether it is cold-war shadow boxing or the four yearly host-nation propaganda circus.
Norman’s moment of fame showed a rare solidarity in a spirit of friendship across nations that the games are supposedly built on. In that instant he rose above just being a fast runner. There are some moments in sport worth remembering.