Documenting the Olympics & Paralympics | Online conference panel, June 19, 2020, now available as audio recording

Originally, Sunday 9th August, 2020 would have been the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and we would have been waiting for the start of the Paralympics. However due to the coronavirus pandemic most events big and small were either cancelled, went online or were postponed till 2021. Even though Tokyo 2020 was postponed until 2021, the symposium Documenting the Olympics & Paralympics, which was supposed to be a full day face-to-face event, went online. The event was a much shorter panel session, held via Zoom on the 19th June, 2020.

This was a collaboration between the British Library, the International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) at De Montfort University, and the British Society of Sports History (BSSH).

This panel discussion reveals more about researchers’ experiences when navigating archives, as well as the collection policies related to Olympics/Paralympics of GLAM organisations. There is a broad mix of physical, digitised and born digital resources will be covered in the presentations.

The event is hosted by BSSH Chair, Raf Nicholson and moderated by BSSH Secretary Geoff Levett.

The event was audio recorded, link below:

Speaker Abstracts

Laura Alexandra Brown, Northumbria University
The heritage of the Games: Interpreting urban change in Olympic host cities

Hosting an Olympic Games has the potential to deliver long-lasting benefits in host cities: considerably changing image and infrastructure; and accelerating urban development plans. The design of venues able to both accommodate Olympic competitions in the short term and be used by the community in the long-term, poses a major challenge for architects and designers. Whilst some stadia are well used for many years after the events have ended and become an important part of the heritage of the city, others begin to fall into disrepair, disuse or decay after the Games, or are subsequently demolished. This paper seeks to identify the features of design that support the positive long-term function and preservation, or subsequent demolition, of the architecture of the Games: using a mixed methods approach to document, identify, and interpret the development, or degeneration, of Olympic buildings and their urban context over time, through the scrutiny of archival and in-situ data. Exploring concepts of social, cultural and architectural heritage, value and worth, this research explores architecture and photography as complex repositories of time, revealing the role of the archive in developing a comprehensive history of Olympic architecture to benefit Olympic host cities and communities of the future.

Heather Dichter, De Montfort University
Finding Olympic history in non-sport archives

Much sport history, and especially Olympic history, has been written based on the papers of sport organizations, including organizing committees (OCOGs), and papers from sport leaders. Some sport organizations still maintain their archives, such as the IOC, IPC, many IFs, NOCs, and NGBs (but often as just “files”, not actual archive). Individual people’s papers can be in many locations such as British Library, although in North America and the UK they can often be held at university archives. While all of these type of records from sport organizations directly are of course essential for understanding the Olympics and Paralympics, there is much to be gained from using federal government records, often contained within national archives and, in the case of the US, presidential libraries (which are part of the NARA). What scholars doing this kind of research found: using foreign ministry and other federal government records is revealing on many levels and deepens our understanding of sport history stories we already know. In order to find these kinds of materials in the archives, it is important for researchers to know where to look. Archivists play a valuable role in helping researchers find these materials.

Robert McNicol, Librarian, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
Researching the Olympics/Paralympics at Wimbledon

Lawn tennis was part of the programme at the inaugural modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896. It remained part of the Games until disagreements between the IOC (International Olymic Committee) and ILTF (International Lawn Tennis Association) over the organisation of the tennis event, and over the nature of amateurism, caused it to be removed from the programme before the 1928 Games in Amsterdam.

Tennis returned to the Olympic Games as a demonstration event at the 1968 Games in Mexico City and then again at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, before returning as a full Olympic sport in 1988 in Seoul.

Wimbledon has hosted the Olympic Games tennis event on two occasions, in 1908 and 2012. In 1908, an indoor tennis event was also held, at Queen’s Club, earlier in the year.

For researchers of Olympic tennis, the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and Kenneth Wimbledon Library can offer many valuable resources, including books, periodicals, programmes and other items from nearly every Olympic tennis tournament. The Museum also holds a huge collection of items collected during the London 2012 Olympic tennis event, held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club. Many of these items were exhibited the same year in a successful temporary exhibition, which told the story of tennis at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Library’s founder, Alan Little, was a leading scholar of tennis at the Olympic Games was the author of two books on the subject, both of which are part of the Library collection.

This presentation gives a brief history of tennis at the Olympic Games, told through some of the items that form the Museum and Library collections.


Helena Byrne, Curator of Web Archives, British Library
Preserving the Olympics/Paralympics online

The year 2020 was originally an Olympic/Paralympic year before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also a significant milestone for the UK Web Archive and the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC). As it marks 15 years since the first UK Web Archive collections were published and also 10 years since the IIPC first started archiving the Olympics. This presentation gives an overview of some of the various sporting collections held at the British Library, an overview of the UK Web Archive sports collecting policy and what is collected around Olympic and Paralympic events as well as an overview of the IIPC collection policies.

In 2017, the UK Web Archive set up dedicated sports collections. There are three broad collection groups Sports Collection, Sports: Football and Sports: International Events. The subsections of the Sports: International Events includes two summer and two winter Olympic/Paralympic collections from 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. The largest of these collections is the Olympic & Paralympic Games 2012 collection as the Games were hosted in the UK.

The UK Web Archive is made up of the six UK legal deposit libraries, two of those libraries, the British Library and the National Library of Scotland are also members of the IIPC which was founded in 2003. In 2010 the IIPC started its first collaborative collection on the Winter Olympics 2010 and has covered every Olympic/Paralympic Games since. Since the formation of the IIPC Content Development Group (CDG) the collections have started to include a broader range of subjects on and off the playing field.


Audio recording (1:23:38)

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