wed 22/10/2014

Gallery: Collecting the Olympic Games, British Library | Visual arts reviews, news & interviews

Gallery: Collecting the Olympic Games, British Library

Another time, another time: images of the London Olympiad of 1908

Poster advertising the 1908 Olympic Games, until recently lostAll images © Private collection/IOC

As London 2012 finally settles into the blocks for its two-week dash after seven years of preparation, the British Library has cast a nostalgic look back to the two previous Olympiads hosted by the city, in 1908 and 1948. The story the images tell is of the changing face of the Olympics. Once upon a time amateurism unquestioningly held sway and intensely focused athletes didn't sneer at Baron de Coubertin's long-lost concept that it's the taking part that counts and the notion of sponsorship was still a twinkle in Lausanne's eye.

The collection, featuring 2,500 stamps, postal items and other pieces of Olympic memorabilia from private collections, also tracks the history of London's progress across the century. In 1908 the city was still at its imperial zenith. In 1948 it was a bankrupt, clapped-out soon-to-be has-been. Where we are now will be determined by the next fortnight. This gallery concentrates on the images from the 1908 Olympiad. Compare and contrast with the coming attractions.

Click on the images to enlarge


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