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Courageous Act

July 5, 2010

The Today Progamme on Rado 4 regularly do features on new music projects from redundant musicians – usually from the 60s.  They did one this morning on Rickie Lee Jones, who I had never heard of. She was talking about how her music is currently inspired by the Black Panthers. The feature contained this excerpt of an interview between John Carlos and a British interviewer about the famous black power salute at the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968 – what Muhammed Ali called ‘the single most courageous act of the 20th Century’.

Was what happened here on Wednesday on the Podium infact a protest of black power?

John Carlos:
What we did on the award stand was to let the black people of the world know that we were running to represent them.

You’ve been accused of bringing politics into sport – do you accept that accusation?

John Carlos:
I would say one thing: I don’t think that you can close your social life off from your job that you have to do with athletics – and there’s no way you can draw a line between the two.

These last words chimed with me a bit. If you substitute the word athletics with the word Olympics – that’s basically the formula for all the projects in this programme. Politics can be separated from sport in a kick around in the local park, it can’t at the Olympics. It is impossible not to react to something as big as the Olympics – and any reaction is going to be political in some way or another. Reactions are interesting.

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