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Unique exhibition of Olympic history opens in SportsDock to mark start of Rio 2016

Men Basketball

British Olympic Association historical archive will remain on permanent exhibition

By Simon Hart

The University of East London (UEL) has marked the start of the Rio Olympics by unveiling a permanent exhibition of Olympic memorabilia dating back more than a century at its SportsDock complex in Docklands.

The exhibits form part of the British Olympic Association’s historical archive and book collection, which has been hosted by UEL since 2012.

They include unique documents and artefacts dating back to the BOA’s formation in 1905, casting a fascinating light on the three London Olympic Games of 1908, 1948 and 2012.

Among the highlights are programmes and photographs from the 1098 Games, a bronze medal from 1948 and correspondence about the impact of rationing on the 1948 Olympics, which was a topic of major concern at the time.

Alongside the BOA exhibits is a display of UEL’s own collection of memorabilia from the 2012 Games, in which the University played a crucial part by hosting Team USA for its pre-Games preparation camp.

It includes official publications, a 2012 Olympic torch and photographs of the United States First Lady, Michelle Obama, who paid a visit to SportsDock to meet the American team.

The BOA chose UEL to host its archive collection in the run-up to the London Olympics but, until now, the exhibits have remained hidden from public view and been accessible only to researchers in the archive room of the University's Dockland Library.

Now visitors to SportsDock will be able to enjoy a journey through Britain’s Olympic history, discovering how London became the first and only city to stage the world’s largest sports festival on three separate occasions.

It is hoped to extend the exhibition to 2016 to celebrate the achievements of the UEL students and staff who are competing and providing support services at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics.

Thomas Shaw, Head of Collections and Digital Library, said: “It is very exciting to be hosting this exhibition, and to be able to bring some of the highlights of the archive to a wider audience.

"Given UEL’s strengths in sport and Olympics, with current students competing in Rio, we are very proud to host this nationally important archive.

“It gives a fascinating insight into Olympic history, particularly London’s history as a three-times host city.”