Olympic legend John Carlos returns ‘home’ where he made ‘everlasting statement’

John Carlos, Mexico City, Olympics, raised fist
John Carlos on the track at Estadia Olimpico Universitario in Mexico City Sept. 24, 2018 (Photo by Max Bechtoldt/GlobalSport Matters)

When John Carlos arrived at Estadio Olímpico Universitario for the 50th anniversary of his bronze medal performance on Monday, he was ready to run, joking with those in attendance that he would race if someone was willing to bet $250.

Carlos was only 23 years old when he and Tommie Smith earned the bronze and gold medals, respectively, in the men’s 200-meter final in the 1968 Mexico City Games. While accepting their medals, they wore black gloves and no shoes. When the national anthem started, both raised their fists in the black power salute.

“We decided to do it in this stadium right here” said Carlos. “I was here not to win a medal, but to make an everlasting statement.”

Coming back to the stadium is an emotional experience for Carlos, who for the first time experienced returning with close friend and three-time Olympic gold medalist Wyomia Tyus.

The smile on Carlos’s face seemed to never leave while he was in the stadium. He even went to the location of the starting blocks and got down into his stance as though he was starting a race.

Coming back to the stadium is a nostalgic experience for Carlos. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the experience of a lifetime.

“It’s a phenomenal feeling; it’s a feeling of historical proportions in terms of your reflection on so many people in the stands to observe the talents that God gave you and the energy exerted that day,” Carlos said. “You reflect on teammates of that day and of the fans around the world and the people that were here and created their own energy and vibe.”

Carlos thinks about this stadium often, and describes it as a living organism, saying the stadium has its own energy and that it breathes. He says you can really feel it.

“To come here and close your eyes and just feel the ambiance of you being in the stadium,” Carlos said. “It’s hard to express the feeling I had competing here. I wonder if the soccer players who still play here feel the same way. The feeling doesn’t change it always comes back to me.”

Carlos doesn’t just love the stadium, he considers the entire city his second home, and that feeling hits him whenever he arrives.

Carlos said: “When I got off the plane and landed in Mexico City, I felt like I was coming home. This is my home away from home, no doubt about it. I will always be connected to Mexico City, and Mexico City will always be connected to John Carlos.”

Max Bechtoldt is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University

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