altTOMMIE SMITH, whose black power salute on the Olympic podium in the 1968 Mexico City Games has become one of the most famous images of all-time, has visited London to give a talk on how sport can be a vehicle to address the capital’s increasing culture of gangs and territorialism.


Now a doctor of sociology, Smith’s rare visit to the UK coincided with the 40th anniversary since Smith’s famous act in support of the civil rights movement in the United States, which has been dubbed the “silent gesture”.


Smith gave a talk to around a 100 youngsters at on the subject of how sport can be a vehicle to address the capital’s problems.

He visited the Breaking Barriers project in Lambeth, funded by the Football Foundation and delivered by London Active Communities which engages some of the capital’s most disadvantaged and disaffected young people through sport and provides training and accreditation opportunities.
Before Smith arrived the teenagers were involved in workshops on “working with gangs, challenging behaviour and conflict resolution” and “the role of sport in tackling social issues”. 
They then watched a documentary on the 1968 Olympics and the famous salute that Smith and John Carlos gave after finishing first and third respectively in the 200 metres in Mexico City before listening to his speech and getting the opportunity to ask questions themselves.
Paul Thorogood, the chief executive of the Football Foundation, said: “It is an honour to have a legendary athletic and now an inspirational academic visit London ahead of 2012.
“The Football Foundation is all about harnessing the power of sport to change society for the better and help give individuals the belief to better themselves so to have Dr Tommie Smith visit one of our projects is a special moment, particularly for the young participants.”
Gary Stannett, the chief executive at London Active Communities, said: “During Black History Month, the visit of Dr Tommie Smith is a great opportunity for our young people to meet an iconic athlete and take inspiration from historical events that are as relevant today as they were 40 years ago.”
Smith was bringing the story of his struggle for American civil rights to London as part of Camden Council's Black history season.
Camden's three-month programme of events looks at forty years of local, national and international history from a black perspective -
During his three-day visit he spoke to pupils from three local schools about his experiences in the 1968 Olympics and the repercussions of his silent protest, and urged them to stand up for human rights.