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Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel Investigates Yogi Bikram Choudhury, an Enduring Protest from the 1968 Olympics and Xenophobia in Small Town Maine [Preview] 

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel Investigates Yogi Bikram Choudhury, an Enduring Protest from the 1968 Olympics and Xenophobia in Small Town Maine [Preview]
Photo Credit: HBO
Photo Credit: HBO
Photo Credit: HBO

Even if you’re not necessarily familiar with Yogi Bikram Choudhury, I think almost everyone has heard of hot yoga. In fact, it became so trendy that Choudhury got rich off it. Instructors looking to be officially certified felt blessed if they were lucky enough to be invited to a retreat led by the Yogi himself. But within the last few years, allegations of sexual misconduct have begun to surface and young women continue to come forward with lawsuits. Where did it all go wrong and what does Choudhury have to say in his own defense?

The Guru

Bikram Choudhury, 72, is the force behind the hot yoga craze that bears his name. Over the past three decades, Choudhury has become one of the most successful yoga gurus in the world and a very rich man by certifying instructors to teach his unique brand of yoga, a discipline that combines 26 traditional poses with 105-degree heat and 40% humidity for a grueling 90-minute session. But Real Sports spoke with dozens of certified trainers who liken Choudhury to a cult leader, who berates students during their expensive, weeks-long training and in recent years, has faced allegations of sexual assault, which have resulted in multiple lawsuits.

Real Sports travels to Choudhury’s native India, where many wonder if he will remain to avoid his civil suits, and finds him teaching his training classes once again. Correspondent Andrea Kremer questions Choudhury on the disturbing claims of sexual assault, and also sits down with three of the alleged victims, one of whom is speaking publicly for the first time.

Photo Credit: HBO
Photo Credit: HBO

The Third Man

The image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting at the 1968 Olympic Games with fists raised is one of the most iconic images in sports. Vilified for years, Smith and Carlos are now celebrated Civil Rights heroes, but the third man on the podium, white Australian Peter Norman, has been all but lost to history. Often cropped out of the image or dismissed as a bystander, Norman played a unique role in that protest and paid a dear price for it for the rest of his life. Real Sports correspondent David Scott explores the untold story of Peter Norman, his unredeemed sacrifice and his surprising lifelong kinship with Black America.

Here are some excerpts from the segment:

Peter Norman, the third man on that medal stand to whom time has been much less kind. A white Australian often dismissed as a bystander or cropped out of the iconic scene altogether. In truth, John Carlos says, Norman played a unique role in the protest and paid dearly for it ’til the day he died.

John Carlos: “Here’s a white guy that had everything to gain if he just kept his mouth shut.”

David Scott: “Peter could’ve made it very easy for himself?”

John: “That’s right. That’s right. Okay? But he chose to stand for what was right. Peter Norman stands for what was right.”

Norman split the two Americans claiming the silver medal and a new Australian record. But it was inside the stadium tunnel awaiting the medal presentation that history was written that day.

Tommie Smith: “I had my gloves. And there was some discussion in the tunnel between John and myself.”

John: “Peter was there and he was kinda curious as to what we were doing, what we were talking about. And I turned to Peter and I asked him. I said, ‘Peter,’ I said, ‘Do you believe in human rights?’”

David: “You said– you expected to see fear in his eyes. Instead–”

John: “I didn’t see nothing but love, man. He looked at me and he smiled. He said, ‘Of course.’ And I said to him, I said, ‘Would you like to wear Olympic Project for Human Rights button?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And he started reaching for mine. And I pat him on his hand. I said, ‘Whoa, you can’t have this. But I’ll get you one.’”

David: “He didn’t hesitate?”

John: “Mr. Norman never flinched.”

David: “Did it surprise you?”

Tommie: “Yes, it did. He wanted to be included in this. But one must realize what that button cost him.”

When the lords of Australian sport selected their next Olympic team four years later to compete in Munich, the most dominant 200M runner in the country was left off. The Australian Olympic Committee says Norman failed to qualify, but Weinberg, Norman’s coach, says the decision was purely political.

Ray Weinberg: “He should’ve made Munich. The things that were being asked of everybody he had met. And there were athletes that were not of his class who were included in the team. Everything in Peter’s later life came back to this moment.”

Matt Norman (nephew): “You know, during the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympics, all our greatest athletes did a lap of honor. And he wasn’t invited in any official capacity to do that.”

David: “The man who still holds the Australian record in the in the 200 meter run.”

Smith and Carlos had become celebrated Civil Rights heroes. Their alma mater, San Jose State University, even commissioned a statue to honor them, but the design didn’t include Norman’s likeness.

John: “I was disappointed, absolutely. And I called Australia. And he told me, he said, ‘John,’ he said, I prefer to leave my spot open for anybody that comes to San Jose State. They can stand in my spot in support of what you did.”

When the statue was unveiled in 2005 Norman’s silver medal platform was left vacant, but he came across the world anyway to once again stand by two old friends.

Peter Norman (SOT): “Athletes work an entire lifetime, for the privilege and the honor of standing on an Olympic dais. Why? To hear the adulation of the rest of the world when they stand up there. These two guys gave away that glory in 1968. And San Jose State, you’re giving them back that glory today. And I thank you for that.”

Photo Credit: HBO
Photo Credit: HBO

Coming to America

Historically, Lewiston, Maine was known as a white working-class mill town lacking diversity. But when Muslim refugees from Somalia and other African countries fled war, sought refuge and massed in the city in the wake of 9/11, tensions rose quickly as the locals and the refugees struggled to figure out how to coexist in the city of only 36,000.

Last year at the soccer pitch at Lewiston High School, residents set their differences aside and came together to cheer on the boys’ soccer team — a team made up of players from six African countries — as they soared to the state championship. For that moment, the town’s problems appeared to evaporate. But as Real Sports correspondent Soledad O’Brien finds, a championship cannot cure-all, and the players still face xenophobia on the fields and in their everyday lives.

This episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel premieres Tuesday, October 25th at 10/9c on HBO.

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