AOC sees no need to apologise to athlete

THE Australian Olympic Committee does not support a parliamentary motion to apologise to the 1968 Olympian Peter Norman, the Australian who, in one of the Olympics' most iconic images, stood in solidarity with two black American athletes during a medal ceremony.

The late Norman won silver at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in the 200-metre sprint, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record.

During the medal presentation Norman wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the ''black power'' salute.

Last night Labor backbencher Andrew Leigh was due to move a motion acknowledging Norman's stand for racial equality and his athletic achievements.

Mr Leigh's motion also calls on the Parliament to ''apologise to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying''.

He came third in the 1972 national titles. As reported by The Age's Ron Carter in March 1972, Norman said after the race: ''I'm history. I'm out of the team. All I had to do was to win, even in a slow time, and I think I would have been off to the Olympics.''

An AOC spokesman said it did not see any need to support the motion because it never had any problem with Norman.

''It has been suggested Peter Norman was 'punished' by the AOC for his role in the black power salute given by two American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, during the medal ceremony for the 200m … This is incorrect,'' he said. ''As to his non-selection in the 1972 Olympics, it had nothing to do with the incident in Mexico City. ''

Mr Leigh acknowledged there was some uncertainty about Norman's non-selection for the 1972 Games and said he would be focusing on Norman's important life as a role model for equality.

''In the simple act of wearing that badge, Peter Norman showed the world he stood for racial equality,'' Mr Leigh said. ''He showed us that the action of one person can make a difference.''

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