Today: February 29, 2024

Salute

With a big sporting summer approaching and in the wake of Asif Kapadia’s inspired documentary Senna, one can expect to find a variety of sporting movie knock-offs coming to cinemas looking to make a quick buck.

With a big sporting summer approaching
and in the wake of Asif Kapadia’s inspired documentary Senna, one can expect to
find a variety of sporting movie knock-offs coming to cinemas looking to make a
quick buck.
Fortunately,
Salute isn’t one of them. An insightful, engaging and emotional look behind the
scenes of the black power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, Salute
is a fascinating tale about when sports meets politics.

Those old enough
to remember, and even those who aren’t, will remember the explosive impact of
American 200 metre runners Tommie Smith
and John Carlos’ actions whilst on
the victory dais that summer. But what is less known is the actions of the
Australian runner Peter Norman,
whose silver medal achievement was convincingly overshadowed by the salute.
This is his story.

In a Summer and
era when civil rights battles were being fought all over the world, Smith and
Carlos’ actions were the culmination of extreme tensions. Director Matt Norman, the nephew of Peter
Norman, makes a valiant effort of framing the film in the context of the
political and sociological turmoil of the time. The well-publicised racial
tensions within the U.S. Athletics team are made clear, while lesser-known
facts about Australia’s controversial White policy are also pointed out.

And it is Peter
Norman’s opposition to Australia’s immigrant policy that shapes political and
moral support of Smith and Carlos’. Many anecdotes follow about how the salute
came to pass and the two American athletes’ consultation with Norman about
their plan. As it turns out, Norman supported the cause in his own way by
donning an OPHR (Olympic Project for Human Rights) badge on the podium. The
consequences of which would ostracise him from future participation in
athletics.

Norman shows no
regret or anger, only comfort in the fact he felt it was the right thing to do
at that moment. Thankfully his side of that moment in history has now been
honoured.

Though the film
is particularly low budget and some of the interviews suffer from poor sound,
this is never to the detriment to the story at hand. The heart-warming humility
of Peter Norman is the shining light of the documentary. Softly spoken and
chokingly modest, Norman’s bravery was shadowed by his own self-deprecating
nature. And they say sport and politics should never be mixed.

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