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Peter Norman Statue to be built

Tuesday, 9 October 2018 | Rob Cumbrae-Stewart

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Athletics Australia in partnership with the Victorian Government will honour Peter Norman’s legacy as an athlete and advocate for human rights by building and erecting a bronze statue at Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne.

Peter Norman won a silver medal at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and his time of 20.06 seconds for 200m remains the Australian record today.

However it was Peter's brave stand in solidarity with American gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos on the dais that will forever live as one Australian sports most iconic moments and a special moment in Olympic history.

While Smith and Carlos raised their black-gloved fists, their heads bowed, symbolising black unity and a call for racial equality in the United States, Peter showed his solidarity with the two Americans by wearing the badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

The Hon John Eren MP, Minister for Sport said that Peter has inspired a generation of Victorians and is pleased the Victorian Governement could help immortalise Peter Norman. 

"The Victorian Government is committed to gender and racial equality and recognises the power of sport to break barriers, and the role athletes like Peter Norman have played in inspiring more Victorians to follow in their footsteps," The Hon John Eren MP, Minister for Sport said. 

"Peter Norman stood up for what's right, in a time when others stood by, he deserves this honour and deserves to be immortalised."

Athletics Australia will adopt October 9 as Peter Norman Day, and join USA Track and Field who celebrate the day annually, as a sign of respect for Norman and the high esteem in which he is held both here and in the United States

Athletics Australia President Mark Arbib acknowledges that more should have been done in the past to honour Norman. 

“Initiatives to honour Peter Norman, such as this statue, are seriously overdue,” Arbib said.

“Peter Norman’s decision to stand in solidarity with USA athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico 1968, helps define our strong and diverse identity.

"His actions are a fine legacy for the athletics family to commemorate, celebrate and aspire to."

Peter Norman’s family endorsed the statue and the celebration of his legacy, his daughter, Janita, expressed the immense pride they have of the stand taken by her father. 

“That pride hasn’t diminished with the passage of time, so to accept this statue 50 years on has only added to that feeling,” she said.

“My father was someone who held strong beliefs and who spoke his mind and yet it’s the image of him standing there silently on the podium that has made such an impact on our lives.

“But we are also grateful that his athletic achievement is recognised. His Australian record still stands and that too means a great deal to us. It won’t stand forever of course, but 50 years is not a bad effort.”

Also present to welcome today's announcement was the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), who awarded Peter Norman with an Order of Merit in June of this year. 

President of the AOC Mr John Coates says while the recognition was long overdue, it was a poignant moment for both the Olympic movement and the Norman family.

“The AOC received such positive feedback following our decision to award Peter a posthumous Order of Merit. Peter’s very proud family and Tommie Smith himself kindly acknowledged the gesture," Mr Coates said. 

“His remarkable achievements as an athlete were inevitably dwarfed by his support for Tommie and John Carlos.

“Peter left us in 2006 but he has a unique place in our sporting history. It was a simple act, standing with those athletes, wearing their badge and telling them he supported them.“

Athletics Australia also announced the inaugural recipient of the Peter Norman Humanitarian Award.

This will be an annual award presented to a member of the Australian athletics community who exemplifies the spirit of Peter Norman through their work for human rights, equality and humanitarian causes.

The award will be open to anyone within the Athletics Australia Family including athletes, coaches, volunteers, officials, team staff, AA staff or recreational runners.

This years recipient, two-time Olympian Eloise Wellings, was chosen due to her inspiring work as founding Director of the Love Mercy Foundation.

This Foundation exists to see Northern Ugandans live an empowered life, free to claim their basic human rights to a secure food supply, income, education, health, and equality, through sustainable development projects.

"I am so honoured to be receiving the Peter Norman Humanitarian Award, Peter Norman has always been a hero of mine, his heart for justice, his courage to stand up against inequality and racism and his sacrifice in using his athletic career as a platform to bring light to these things and advocate for change is truly inspiring to me," said Wellings. 

"Peter’s is a legacy of standing and speaking up for what is right without fear of the consequences. 

"It is a real privilege to be accepting this award in recognition of our work in Uganda for our Love Mercy Foundation, it has truly encouraged me to keep fighting for what is right for the people we have had the opportunity to stand alongside in Uganda. "

To support Eloise's worthy cause, Athletics Australia will be donating to Love Mercy, which is funded entirely by the generosity of the public. 

Athletics Australia are also working with Little Athletic Clubs around the country to hold 200m races during Peter Norman week (9th-16th October).

Named the Peter Norman Classic, these races will help to honour Peter's legacy as well as spread awareness of him as both an exceptional athlete and humanitarian to our junior athletes. 

On hand today to announce the building of the Peter Norman statue were The Hon John Eren MP, Minister for Sport, Tim Pallas MP, Treasurer and Minister for Resources, Athletics Australia CEO Darren Gocher, Peter Norman’s Daughter - Janita Norman and Peter Norman's coach - Neville Sillitoe

 
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