Sport on TV: Timely salute for rights and wrongs of protest

The Chinese authorities must be quaking in their jackboots. The Olympics do tend to get a little political, and in Beijing there are no plans to mark the 40th anniversary of the "black power" civil rights protest by Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico City Games. The hosts won't be looking to commemorate any remarkable campaigns to champion the cause of the oppressed.

'Black Power Salute' (BBC4, Wednesday) began with the BBC's Frank Bough telling us on 'Good Morning Mexico' on 16 October 1968 about a protest by the two "American Negro runners", who raised their clenched, black-gloved fists on the medal podium. The N-word was surely an unnecessary addition even in those days, given what the protest was about, let alone the famous pictures themselves.

The programme told how the Olympic Project for Human Rights tried to orchestrate a boycott of the '68 Games, as well as calling for Muhammad Ali's world title to be reinstated (it had been taken away when he refused the Vietnam draft) and an Olympic ban for South Africa and Rhodesia.

The San Jose University Speed City team, of which Smith and Carlos were members, also joined forces with their classroom guru Professor Harry Edwards to call for Avery Brundage to be removed as head of the International Olympic Committee. He had been instrumental in Berlin staging the 1936 Games, in return for which Hitler had awarded his construction company the contract to build the German embassy in the US.

The boycott failed and Brundage stayed on. Then he sent Jesse Owens, the icon of black athletes, to stop the US team from continuing their protests, having been responsible for ending Owens' career after the Berlin Games.

Owens ended up in horseracing. But unlike many ex-pros down at the track, he was actually racing against the horses. Old Avery could not be faulted for his ability to compromise the integrity of all concerned.

He sent Smith and Carlos home after the salute. The track ran downhill from there, and we next saw Smith marooned in some grim sports stadium in Wakefield, where this giant of a man with ferocious facial hair held keep-fit sessions for very skinny, very pale and perhaps very frightened children.

What the programme didn't tell us is that Smith and Carlos are apparently no longer on speaking terms. Their versions of the events have become so radically different. Meanwhile, Brundage was faced with the Munich bombing four years later, when he famously insisted: "The Games must go on."

He stood down after the '72 Olympics having been in charge of the IOC for 20 years. Three years later he was dead. The Chinese could have done with someone like him around.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Cambridge / London - £47,000

£40000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing ...

Sauce Recruitment: Sales Executive - Consumer Exhibition - 12 month Fixed Term Con

£20000 - £22000 per annum + up to £22K + commission : Sauce Recruitment: The ...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Sales Executive - Premium Food and Drink Events

£24000 - £26000 per annum + up to £26K + team commission: Sauce Recruitment: H...

Sauce Recruitment: Financial Planning & Analysis Analyst (FP&A)- Entertainment

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A major film studio are looking ...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms