Simone Bacchini writes:
I have been in my current post and writing for this blog for just over a year now. It’s been busy but extremely interesting at the same time. In one of my earlier contributions to this blog, I wrote about my friends’ surprise - and indeed my own - at being asked to write about sport and the Olympics. If there is such thing as a sports gene, surely I must have been some place else when it was distributed (dozing off, most likely). Or so I thought.
I’m not sure if my recent purchase of gym membership, and actually going, might be considered a materialisation of one of the promised legacies of London hosting the 2012 Games: more people becoming more physically active. And anyway, if you were to witness my pitiful performance on the treadmill or my trying to lift ludicrously small weights, you’d probably wish I hadn’t. What I am certain of, however, is the personal and professional ‘legacy’ of flexing my curatorial muscle to lift out of obscurity some of the many resources that the British Library can offer to people researching sport and its links with society.
Over the past months, sometimes unaided but very often with the assistance of more experienced colleagues, I’ve come across a wealth of information and material on sport and the Olympics, the breadth of which is simply astounding.
From black and white pictures of beefy men wearing leotards and Roman sandals to recorded interviews with ageing British athletes, telling of their training in their spare time to compete at the London 1948 Games. I have been fortunate enough to correspond with historians of football in Argentina and scholars of sport and disability in North America. Perusing the Library’s vast philatelic collection, I’ve been amazed by the ability of tiny bits of paper to help shed light on the significance of sporting events for national communities. Soon I’ll meet, you won’t believe this, the curator of our mediaeval manuscripts collection to find out how some of their materials could be of use to our Sport and Society website (I told you wouldn’t believe this – just wait and see). And how could I forget the time I was interviewed by a young schoolboy on the shape, size, and design of the medals for the 1908 Games? That was hard work.
Whatever one thinks of London hosting the Olympics, and opinion is by no means unanimous, one thing is certain: it is a unique event that – for good or bad – will be discussed and analysed for years to come. Long after all the Olympians, Paralympians, dignitaries, and visitors have left, a wealth of material will be left behind for the researchers of the future. Hopefully, by using it they’ll be able to tell us more about not only the Games but also about us, as a nation.
As a curator, my hope is that the material that will have been collected and presented on these virtual pages will be of help. It may not be an astonishing legacy, but it will be good enough for me. And the good news is you too can contribute to it. You can submit material or help us discover items we didn’t know we had or use known ones in novel ways. So, if you tire of the gym, track or swimming pool, pop into the Library.