Olympic hero continues to inspire


The year was 1968. The same year the beloved Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated and the Olympic Games were held in Mexico City. The world was awestruck when Tommie Smith ran the 200m dash in a stunning 19.83 seconds. This amazing race shattered the previous world record and raised the bar for sprinters in the world of Track and Field.
Yet with these powerful achievements, Smith is remembered for his outstanding act of courage that took place after receiving his Olympic Gold. Feeling strongly about the unfair treatment of blacks in America, Smith and bronze-medalist teammate John Carlos gave a silent protest by throwing up a fist for black power during the Star-Spangled Banner. Smith raised his right fist in the air, covered in a black glove, which represented black power in racist America. Carlos wore a black glove on his left fist to represent unity among blacks in America. Smith also donned a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride. Both athletes also wore cuffed pants to reveal black socks, symbolic of black poverty in America. The athletes were able to catch the attention of an entire country without resorting to violent protesting methods.
America was outraged, and an Olympic spokesperson labeled the protest as a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit. Both athletes were stripped of their medals and banned from the Olympic Village.
Smith is more than an Olympic Legend, he is a representation of true heart and passion. His actions proved that social equality ultimately meant more to him than a prized Olympic Gold. Smith took full advantage of the fact that America was watching him. The Olympic Creed states, “the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” Although Smith’s actions did not solve the issues of racial inequality, he provided a voice of honor to represent the desire for a brighter and more accepting America. Black communities across the nation were forever touched and motivated by his actions. In doing this, he fulfilled the Olympic Creed’s philosophy in a way that stepped outside the realm of athletics.
Today, his protest is still honored by many people across the globe. The event can be seen in numerous magazines and television shows. In August 1999 HBO aired a documentary titled “The Fist of Freedom”. It captured the essence behind this event in Olympic history. Many people, including myself, have a poster of the victory stance hanging on their walls to remind them of this glorious historical event.
Smith is now a professor of Sociology at Santa Monica City College. As people, we all have our own beliefs and criticisms of the world we live in.  Smith exemplified the fact that all it takes is one person to catch the attention of a nation, and progressively make a positive difference. Though times have changed since the late ’60s, we can all look back and be forever inspired by the heroic actions that were presented in Mexico City. With enough heart, the power of one individual can have a dramatic impact on our future world.