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The Olympic Games

Published 19 July 2012

Illustration of a man throwing a shotput

An exhibition to celebrate the London 2012 Olympics

Special Collections presents an exhibition of material exploring Olympic competition past and present.

A selection of books, pamphlets, magazines and photographs drawn from the archives illustrates the talents and trials of athletes reaching for glory throughout the ages. The origin of the Games in ancient Olympia and the development of the modern Olympics are represented in displays featuring items from a number of collections, including Ancient History, the Thompson classics collection, the Leeds Russian Archive, Sport, Music, Literature and Art.

The exhibition begins with a range of items describing the athletic competitions of ancient Olympia.

Dating from 776 BC, the Games held great significance as a religious festival, as a sporting competition between rival city states, and as an expression of panhellenic cultural identity.

Items on display include photographs and illustrations of the ancient site, showing its art, architecture, sculpture and setting; Olympic odes from the Greek poet Pindar; books depicting the ancient sporting disciplines; and a range of historical treatises on the subject of the Games.

The second part of the exhibition focuses on the modern Olympics, which were revived in 1896 in Athens.

Items from the Sport and Newspaper collections illustrate the 1908 and 1948 London Olympic Games. A series of posters from the Art collection includes promotional designs for the 1948 London Games and for a number of subsequent events held around the globe. The 1980 Moscow Olympics is represented by items from the Leeds Russian Archive.