Olympic legend Tommie Smith comes to Paris to share stories of triumph and revolt

Such is the aura of the 1968 Olympic 200 metres gold medallist Tommie Smith that sports historians with multiple degrees melt in his presence and even grown women stand up and cry out for a picture with him because it's their birthday.

Blondine Aglossi rose from her slumbers at 5am to make the 85-kilometre trip off from Nemours just outside Paris on Tuesday morning to attend the 11am talk the 80-year-old was scheduled to give at the Musée de la Porte Dorée in eastern Paris about the gesture he made with fellow American John Carlos and the Australian Peter Norman on the podium after the 200 metres Olympic final in Mexico City in 1968.

Just before the standing ovation in the museum's main auditorium veered into full reverential accolade, Aglossi screamed out, "It's my 60th birthday today, can I have a picture?"

Minutes later amid a whirl of selfies, gushing compliments and unabashed adoration, Smith decked out in a light grey suit and mauve polo neck, charmingly obliged.

"I suddenly thought: 'It's my birthday,'" said Aglossi 15 minutes or so after her surge of spontaneity. "I have a legend in front of me, someone I've always admired, without really knowing him.

"But I'm thinking I need a photo with him. It's a magical day today because he's here.

"I'm thinking it's going to be my birthday present and it's a wonderful present, don't you think?"

Both athletes wore black socks and no shoes on the podium to represent African-American poverty.

Norman participated in the protest by wearing a badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

So are legends born.


Read more on RFI English

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Helsinki 1952: Summer Olympics at the height of the Cold War
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Mexico 1968: Between repression and the fight for democracy