Back in the day
I was in the 11th grade at Ganesha High School and while in Mrs. Anderson’s Spanish class I met James R. Bell. I know he passed the class………I can’t remember my grade??? LOL. Anyway we have been friends since and as you can imagine he is part of our broader family. During the years we have been fortunate to make many historic treks. Recently he joined Judith and myself as we made the journey to San Jose to see remnants of “speed city” and the Olympic Black Power statue which is on the campus of San Jose State University. Of course Tommie Smith and John Carlos made history in 1968 and it was heartfelt to see them bronzed in the statue funded by students.
As a early teen I was watching the 1964 Olympics. They were in black and white. The finals of the 4×100 men’s relay was about to start. As the starting gun sounded the sprinters took off and somehow the favored U.S. team was in trouble and appeared to be headed to defeat. As anchor Bob Hayes took the baton he tracked down all runners ahead of him and miraculously the Russian sprinter who surely thought he would be the first to touch the victory tape was stunned to see this ebony image zip past him. It was a historic leg of the relay race that has to go in history as a legendary comeback. Hayes was known as “Bullet” Bob Hayes and from that race earned the distinction of the fastest human. I was mesmerized.
In 1968 my track and field appreciation had matured so at 16 I had an understanding of the Olympic games as well as the anticipated boycott. The rest is history as while the men’s 200mm victory stand celebration exploded around the globe, all three runners sacrificed something very few could imagine. Their story is an important part of history. The Triumph and the Victory.
In 2005 San Jose State University supported to students who funded the status symbolizing the victory stand. There are several statues of this moment but the “Olympic Black Power Statue” is special as this was the campus Tommie Smith and John Carlos attended. The track team was known for its prowess everyone knew it as “speed city.”
During my stint at the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee it gave me great joy to see Peter Uberroth extend a hand to recognize the greatness of people like Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they too were appointed as staffers. I didn’t have a relationship with Tommie Smith as management of the games were all over the city. However, I did have a relationship with John as he visited my office at Expo Park and our subsequent office at Manual Arts. We attended several community events together and of course he brought his torch from the opening torch relay. It was magic.
Ricardo Gouvela aka “Rigo 23” did an amazing job in creating the statue. I was surprised at its height as well as the attention to detail.
If you have never visited the site, I would encourage you to do so.
To gain more information on this history
There is much more so just do a Google search of items you feel have legitimate authorship