Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

12 posts categorized "Sports"

21 August 2015

World Athletics Championships

The 15th  World Athletics Championships are being held in Beijing’s iconic ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic stadium from 22-30th August.  Britain currently lies in eight place on the overall medal table from the 14 previous events, and interviews with some of the athletes who won these medals and competed at in earlier editions feature in the British Library’s oral history collections recounting their life stories and reflecting on their time in athletics.

Silver medalist of the 1980 Olympics in 800m running Sebastian Coe

Sebastian Coe (second from left), silver medalist of the 1980 Olympics in 800m running.  © RIA Novosti archive, image #556242 / Yuriy Somov / CC-BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

400m runner Roger Black, winner of an individual silver medal (1991) and three 4x400m relay medals two gold (1991 and 1997)  and a silver (1987) reflects on how athletes view success in the World Championships compared to other major events, particularly the Olympics

Roger Black reflects on how athletes view success

Liz McColgan was another gold medal winner in Tokyo in 1991, just nine months after giving birth to her daughter, Eilish.  In her interview she discussed her return to competition after pregnancy, her memories of the World Championship win and the struggle she had to produce a urine sample after the race.

Liz McColgan discusses her return to competition after pregnancy

For McColgan, however, it was not this gold medal that gave her the most satisfaction during this period of her career.  Instead it was running a world best time for the half-marathon the following year, in the face of adversity including several sleepless nights with a sick child

Liz McColgan describes the best moment of her career

Both Black and McColgan were fortunate to be injury-free and in peak form in a World Championship year. Others such as Lord Coe, now president of the IAAF, were less fortunate.  Coe missed the inaugural World Championships in 1983 with toxoplasmosis, was injured for the second in 1987 and had retired by the time of the third in 1991.  Interviewed in 1999 he remembered missing the 1983 event and the press speculation that surrounded his absence from the track.

Lord Coe remembers missing the 1983 World Championships

All these performances were based on many thousands of hours of training and failure as well as success.  Daley Thompson, winner of the decathlon gold medal in the first World Championships in 1983 and a double Olympic gold medallist, reflected on how he learned from his failures and always sought improvements in training. 

Daley Thompson reflects on how he learnt from his failures

For Thompson the track was where he felt at home, and like many other athletes he found dealing with the media and the public away from it could be challenging.  High jump bronze medallist in Toronto in 1993, Steve Smith, reflects on the positive and negative consequences of being in the public eye.

Steve Smith reflects on the positive and negative consequences of being in the public eye

This level of scrutiny and the life of a professional athlete described by Smith seem a long way from the experiences recounted by many of the older interviewees in this collection such as John Disley, Ann Brightwell (Packer) and Dorothy Hyman whose Olympic medals were won in the 1950s and 1960s before British athletes who competed on the international stage could make a living from their sport.

To hear more visit the Sport collection on British Library Sounds.

By Sally Horrocks

15 January 2015

Help Us Create a Directory of UK Sound Collections

Amongst the literary treasures held in the basements of the British Library sits an extraordinary collection of sounds.  From recordings of extinct species, voices from the past, to music across all genres, the British Library’s sound archive is held on more than 1.5 million physical items, just waiting to be heard.

But all of these recordings, from those made on the earliest wax cylinders to contemporary CD-Rs, face a real and immediate threat.


Edison 'Concert' wax cylinders in the collections of the British Library

Within 15 years, the combination of physical degradation and the disappearance of the technologies that support physical media will make accessing the nation’s sound archive difficult, and in many cases impossible.  Without taking steps to preserve these recordings now, they will be lost.

These risks face all recorded sound collections, across the country; from boxes of forgotten cassette recordings to professional archives.

To understand the risks facing the UK’s sound collections, the British Library has initiated a project to collect information about our recorded heritage, to create a Directory of UK Sound Collections.

By telling us what you have, we can understand more about the breadth of the nation’s collections and the risks that they face, and this will help us plan for their preservation, for future generations.

Our aim is to be comprehensive; to search out sounds that exist in libraries, archives, museums, galleries, schools and colleges, charities, societies, businesses and in your homes.  And we’re not just interested in large collections: a single item might be just as important as a whole archive.   

So if you think you might have a rare or unique collection of sounds, or just a recording that should be preserved, let us know!

The census is live now and will run until the end of March 2015.  You can read more about the project, and send us information about your collections here:

Responses have already started to come in, and we’ll be publishing updates on the project, and some of the things we’ve found on this blog, so enter your email address and click the Subscribe button at the top of this page to receive notifications by email.

The British Library’s Directory of UK Sound Collections is one of the first steps in our Save our Sounds programme; one of the key strands of Living Knowledge, the British Library’s new vision and purpose for its future.

You can follow the British Library Sound Archive on Twitter via @soundarchive and tag with #SaveOurSounds

07 January 2011

Recording of the Week: Australia’s top batsman Bradman in full swing - on a piano #cricket #ashes

Richard Ranft, Head of Sound and Vision at the British Library, writes:

Legendary cricketer Sir Donald "the Don" Bradman (1908-2001), who was once named the "greatest living Australian" by former  Prime Minister John Howard, and acclaimed by Wisden as the 20th century’s greatest cricketer, here shows off another cricket record.  But not on the pitch - on the keyboards.

A skilled piano player who grew up in a musical household, he was a boy soprano in his school choir, composed music and made several records (his grand-daughter Greta inherited The Don's love and talent for music and is one of South Australia's pre-eminent classical singers).

Here the Don plays solo “Old Fashioned Locket” and “Our Bungalow of Dreams” on a 78 rpm shellac disc, Colombia DB270, recorded in England in the Colombia Record studios during the 1930 cricket tour to England:

The British Library’s copy of this particular disc includes a copyright stamp affixed to the label:


The A-side of the disc, labelled “How it’s done – a friendly chat”, features Bradman discussing cricket, including differences between Australian and English cricket:


'Recording of the Week' highlights gems from the Archival Sound Recordings website, chosen by British Library experts or recommended by listeners. This item was selected by audio engineer Tony Harris.

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