The history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be brought to life this summer as the British Library and International Olympic Committee present Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games.
The exhibition is comprised of personal memorabilia collected from the historic games of years gone by, focussing on the 1908 to 1948 Olympics, before television began to cover every aspect of the Games.
Open from 25 July to 9 September and completely free, the British Library (located near Kings Cross station) will be host to items and experts of Olympics history. That includes 2,500 stamps, letters and postcards to and from Olympians; artwork and posters; and items of great significance such as the finishing line broken by legendary marathon runner Dorando Pietri prior to his disqualification.
The exhibition displays not only how the Games have changed over more than a century, but also their impact on the lives of competitors, public figures and Londoners across the capital.
Besides the physical memorabilia on offer are fascinating audio interviews from the British Library’s archives. Visitors can listen to Olympians of days gone talking about the biggest moments of the Games of their eras. From the atmosphere of Nazi Germany and the 1936 Berlin Games and Team GB’s brave decision not to salute Hitler, to comparing the London 1948 Games that followed the war to Hitler’s Olympics that preceded it, there are controversial and groundbreaking issues all described by those involved.
And that’s not the last of the British Library’s involvement in this summer’s Games. Their own Dr Richard Price, Head of Content and Research Strategy, has had his poem ‘Hedge Sparrows’ chosen to represent Great Britain this summer. As part of the Cultural Olympiad Project, Written World chose a poem for each of the 204 competing nations, and ‘Hedge Sparrows’ not only gives a voice to the bird found in every corner of Great Britain, but also to the nation in this poetic project that celebrates the language of the world.
All the poems are available to be read on the Scottish Poetry Library website via their interactive World Map here.
Where is it: The British Library is located at 96 Euston Road
Nearest tube: Kings Cross or St Pancras.
Hours: 10am-6pm on weekdays, except for Tuesday when it stays open till 8pm; 10am-5pm Saturday, 11am-5pm Sunday
Watching the Games: There are no screens available in the British Library.
Highlights: Audio interviews from past British Olympians. Thousands of pieces of Olympic memorabilia. A chance to make your own Olympic souvenir.