This week I travelled all the way from Ancient Greece, through 19th-century France to land smack bang in the middle of Olympic London 2012 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
The ROH’s The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games exhibition is a nice primer on the history of the games, followed by a just-what-I-wanted-to-see display of Olympic hardware in the form of torches, medals and select athletes’ memorabilia.
Beginning with the first Olympic Games almost 3,000 years ago, the show features sportily decorated Greek amphora dating from around 500BC, which inspires a cool animation of a chariot race. Moving on to Paris in the 1890s, we meet Pierre de Coubertin, whose vision of a civilising universal sporting event drove him, via the village of Much Wenlock in Shropshire, to create the modern Olympic Games. The first games of the modern Olympiad were held in Athens in 1896.
Following the history lesson, you get to see the Olympic Torches that were used for each games from Berlin 1936 onwards, accompanied by footage and diagrams of the most interesting torch routes. I found this bit unexpectedly moving, perhaps because it’s where local heroes and communities get directly involved in what is arguably the most â€œuniversalâ€ event that happens in our world to this day.
The final room shows a set of medals from every summer Olympics (confirming my suspicion that the London 2012 medals are huge – the biggest yet!). There’s also a display on the games throughout the years comprising personal memorabilia from 20 representative athletes, who demonstrate the values of the Olympic movement.
The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games is a great little exhibition. It’s free to enter and only takes about 45 mins to 1 hour to see. Plus there’s the opportunity to get your picture taken with the London 2012 torch – just be sure to grip it a little more firmly than I did (see above).