For the British Library, the legacy of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2012 means something very specific. As the national archive of published materials, we are collecting not only for current researchers but also for the researchers of the future. This means that we must obtain as much as we can of the multiplicity of publications in all kinds of media which will emerge from the 2012 Games. To do this we need the cooperation of UK publishers.
The Library has acquired the greater part of its vast collection of books, journals and other types of publication over many generations, principally through the legal deposit legislation which requires UK publishers and distributors to deposit a copy of each of their publications here. However, with the advent of internet and electronic publishing, the task of collecting UK publications has become increasingly difficult. We are trying to address these issues by lobbying to enlarge the provisions of the legal deposit legislation to include electronic publications (the regulations for which have yet to be decided); and also by employing new technologies such as web archiving software to capture content generated online, such as UK websites. In the past, UK published materials were recorded in regular editions of catalogues such as the British National Bibliography; nowadays, people are publishing in all sorts of ways, and raising the increasingly urgent question of how libraries can track down, and acquire what is being published, particularly where large scale but transitory events such as the London Games are concerned.
Efforts to collect Olympic and Paralympic publications, documents and artefacts are happening all over the UK. Some of these are described in the accompanying article which also tells the story of the attempts other libraries have made, over the years, to capture past Olympic and Paralympic materials.
Past and present Olympic and Paralympic Legacies
The London 2012 Games will generate a huge number of records, publications and ephemera which will be of enduring interest to researchers and policy makers of the future. What plans do libraries and archives have for capturing this material? Details of some of these initiatives are already online:
BBC Memoryshare programme
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Association has initiated The People’s Record
The Sports Heritage Network is organising a collection of 2012 reminiscences
The University of East London has set up a website which will allow local people to blog, film and podcast about the effects the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2012 will be having on East London.
Past Games have had varying degrees of success in bequeathing a published legacy. Some successful examples are shown here:
GamesInfo: during the Sydney Games of 2000, Gamesinfo.com.au was set up to provide the Games organisers with a channel of communication. The site was archived in 2001 and contains a huge amount of information about the Games and its planning process.
The National Library of Australia has written a conference paper on Olympics publications and the issues involved in archiving them (1998). [The NAL questioned what types of publication would be essential to provide a comprehensive record of an Olympic Games and its final list included: official sources; sponsors’ publications (and some sampling of material from ‘ambush’ marketing); material from associated events including Olympic arts festivals, exhibitions and ceremonies; academic studies; opposition materials; and community materials].
LA84 Foundation: the LA Foundation is endowed with surplus funds from the Olympic Games which was held in Los Angeles in 1984. The Foundation supports youth sports and coaching programmes and also runs the Paul Ziffren Sports resource centre which is the largest sports research library in the Unites States of America. It makes a number of publications available in full text on its website, including digital copies of all the official reports of the modern Olympic Games.
Barcelona Olympics Foundation: The objective of the Foundation is to establish, maintain and promote resources and information about the Barcelona Olympic Games. See particularly the Foundation’s full text lectures on the Olympics which focus on a variety of research themes.
The Olympic Museum in Lausanne keeps an archive of official Olympics documentation from every Games.
IOC archives: full text electronic documents on the IOC site include the Olympic Charter and other downloadable materials such as reports, fact sheets, host city election procedures, IOC interim and final reports and many other useful procedural materials.
Information and documentation in the Olympic Games (2002) Sue Halbwirth, Kristine Toohey
Before, during and after; making the most of the London 2012 games DCMS [PDF 1.64MB]
The published legacy of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 was well served by Australian libraries. Papers delivered at the Olympic Information Seminar held by the Australian Institute of Sport in 1998 give a valuable insight into the logistics of capturing such resources.
Commonwealth Games Legacy describes how the legacy of the the 2002 (XVIII) Commonwealth Games in Manchester was archived.
Olympic official reports
These are available electronically in facsimile via the LA84 Foundation website. The Foundation received special permission from the IOC to publish them on its website. The BL has the printed copies in its collections.
Pandora Australian web archive holds Sydney 2000 websites
The National Archives catalogue unpublished government documents on the Olympics