A Photography, A History : Podium Jeux Olympiques Mexico 1968

Podium Olympic Games Mexico 1968
"Podium of the 400 meter event - Olympic Games Mexico 1968" L' Equipe

Photography « Podium Jeux Olympiques Mexico 1968 »



This photograph of Lee Evans athletes, Larry James and Ron Freeman, was taken on October 18, 1968, during the podium of the 400-meter Olympic Games in Mexico City.

ArtPhotoLimited: We are at the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968 and these Games take a very political turn.

On October 16, 1968, the eve of the 400-meter event, we witness an emblematic event in the history of sport: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two American runners, fight against the racism and the exclusion of which are victims the African-Americans in the United States brandishing a black fisted fist, eyes glued to the ground. A very symbolic act since their gloves are a nod to the "Black Panthers", one of the most active and radical formations of the time. The two men keep their eyes on the ground when the American anthem sounds in protest. They refuse to look at their flag and thus protest against the social context in place in the United States at that time. An act of "rebellion" deemed unacceptable by their Federation that banishes both athletes from the Olympic Village and prohibits them from competing for life. A third man is present that day, the Australian P. Norman, wearing a badge of the "Olympic project for humans rights". He will also pay a strong tribe as a result of his gesture. This scene is broadcast in real time on television channels around the world thanks to the first use of satellites. Millions of people are attending the event live. The social context in the United States is particularly tense at this time. Martin Luther King was assassinated 5 months ago and the protest against the war of the world is becoming stronger.

Two days later, the medal ceremony of the men's 400 meters gives him a new event.

Two days later, on October 18, 1968, Lee Evans set a new world record in the 400 meters with a time of 44 seconds, an extraordinary performance that will be beaten only twenty years later. That day, the American team triumphs and wins the 3 podium places. As the three athletes enter the stadium, they raise their fists in the manner of 20th century revolutionaries and anti-fascists and present themselves on the steps of the podium with a black beret to support the "black power" cause. and fight the injustices that persist. Lee Evans will later explain this choice: "The Black Panthers wore these black berets. I wanted to show the pride of being black. Lee Evan had however failed to boycott the event to protest against the exclusion of his comrades. Teammate Tommie Smith would have encouraged him to participate by saying "let them see who we are". At the end of this act, Lee Evans, Larry James and Ron Freeman were not excluded from the Olympic Village. This "indulgence" is due to the fact that they removed their beret at the time of the American anthem. However, the most plausible is that the American Olympic Committee still needed them to win the 4x400 meter final. They will win the event 4 days later alongside Vince Matthews and will repeat their gesture at the medal ceremony.

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