Ready, set, go: let the Games of the XXX Olympiad commence! Team GB will officially ‘kick off’ the London 2012 Olympics this afternoon with women’s football in Cardiff (er, yes, that’s what we thought. Ref: Twenty Twelve, Series 2, episode 6). Also under starters orders today is Olympex 2012, a fantastic free exhibition of memorabilia, ephemera and oddities from London’s century-spanning Olympic history.
Some 2,500 exhibits at the British Library provide a fascinating insight into the way the Olympic spirit has affected Londoners, with items on display including a vintage swimming costume from 1908, photos and personal letters from Olympians, unique posters, rare stamps, and even a 100-year-old finishing tape broken by the mighty Italian marathon runner Dorando Pietri. You can also hear spectators and athletes relating their own memories via archive interviews.
Our favourite exhibit? A photo of home-grown marathon runner Thomas Jack leading the 1908 race, before stopping at an official refreshment station (which were, then, pubs; other ‘stimulants’ enjoyed by runners included ‘muscatels and distilled water’, ‘new-laid eggs in tea and grapes’ and a ‘bottle of calves’ foot jelly and lemon’). Jack re-emerged from the Crooked Billet inn only to give up shortly after.
Olympex 2012 is free at the British Library from 25 July to 9 September 2012. Open weekdays, 9.30am–6pm (8pm on Tuesdays); Saturdays 9.30am–5pm; Sundays and Bank Holidays, 11am–5pm. The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB (+44 (0)1937 546060).