diamond geezer

 Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Olympic Journey (Royal Opera House)
28 July - 12 August, 10am - 6.15pm

While the Games are taking place, a free exhibition at the Royal Opera House tells the story of how they began and why they continue. Think of it as having an Olympic Museum in London for a fortnight, with various artefacts and mementoes on loan from the actual Olympic Museum in Lausanne. It's a popular attraction, so expect to queue. I got inside in under half an hour yesterday afternoon, but that time'll probably grow as the week draws to a close. Expect bag checks too and friskdowns too, because they're commonplace at anything officially Olympian at the moment. Visitors are guided through the exhibition in small groups, initially through a sequence of four themed rooms. The first two look back to Ancient Greece, and are perhaps more atmosphere than information, but include a nice recreation of a chariot race screened round the rim of a jug. The next focuses on Baron de Coubertin and his global sporting vision - it's entirely his fault that the world pauses every four years to play games. The fourth contains one of every design of Olympic torch, from Berlin right up to London, and blimey how very different they are. Finally you're left to explore a much larger room featuring 16 athletes' biographies and one example of every Olympic medal ever awarded. Your half hour journey ends with the opportunity to have your photo taken with the current Olympic torch, unsullied by sponsor's branding, which might be enough to attract you along in itself. The whole thing's done with class, and you only have five days left to get inside.

Five Olympic Facts from the museum
i) The ancient Olympic Games took place every four years, but lasted only five days. Sporting competition took place only on day 2 and day 4.
ii) The ancient Olympics included an event called the "hoplitodromos" in which athletes ran dressed in full armour.
iii) Only 14 countries took part in the first modern Olympics in 1896. Team GB has won at least one gold medal in every Summer Games since.
iv) Jesse Owens wore Adi Dassler running shoes when winning his Berlin long jump in 1936. They're here, in a cabinet.
v) Since 1972, host cities have been allowed to design the back of the Olympic medal. London's 2012 logo most definitely isn't the loveliest of these.

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