As tickets for the 2012 Olympics go on sale, we at Treasure Hunt Towers (being keen fans of all things active and outdoorsy) thought it might be an idea to find out what the Gateway has to offer in the matter of things Olympian.
First port of call is the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (accessed via the Biography section). Apparently the British used to be quite good at sport once, and to prove it there’s a list of Olympic Title Holders in the ODNB (see under Themes).
Among the notable gold medallists listed are Eric Liddell, Harold Abrahams and Lord Burghley of Chariots of Fire fame, John Pius Boland who won a tennis gold at the very first modern Olympics in 1896 and the splendidly named Wyndham Halswelle who won a somewhat controversial gold medal in the first London Olympics in 1908. Also worth noting is the biography of Ran Laurie, father of actor Hugh Laurie who won a gold medal for rowing in the last London Olympics in 1948.
If this spurs you to want to look at some contemporary records of past Games, your next port of call should be the News & Magazines section of the Gateway. If you choose Picture Post and ‘Browse by Date’ you can pick 1948 and the August 7th issue for some fascinating photojournalism about the London Olympics, including a fine picture of track legend Fanny Blankers-Koen who won 4 individual gold medals at the Games and another of Emil Zatopek, who won his first gold medal in London who went on to win 3 more in 1952 in Helsinki.
If you feel like going further back in history, why not try the Illustrated London News. Use the Advanced Search feature to browse by date. 1st August 1908 has coverage of some of the first London Games (which ran all summer) including the most famous marathon race of all time, when the Italian, Dorando Petri was helped across the finishing line by race officials (one of whom was Arthur Conan Doyle) and subsequently disqualified.
Pictures are all very well – how about some film? If you go to the History section of the Gateway, you can check out the British Pathé site for some film of the 1908 Olympics, including open-air gymnastics (not very impressive by today’s standards), the tug-of-war (in which Great Britain, rather impressively, came first, second and third), a rather peculiar sort of leapfrog, women’s archery (with compulsory silly hats) and the famous marathon.
Having read about all this Olympic history, don’t forget to go to http://www.london2012.com to order your tickets for the next time the Games visit London.