Olympic lives now online

Oral history recordings with British sporting legends available at: http://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Sport

With less than two weeks until the start of the London 2012 Olympics, the British Library is making available a selection of 61 oral history interviews documenting the lives and careers of sportsmen and sportswomen throughout the twentieth century.

Available for anyone to listen to via the Library’s Sounds website, the recordings include interviews with such Olympic and Paralympic legends as Daley Thompson and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, talking candidly about their sporting lives and the experiences that shaped them.

See: http://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Sport

Interviewees featured in the resource include an array of household names:

  • Sebastian Coe (Olympic 1500m gold medalist in 1980 and 1984)
  • Menzies Campbell (Olympic 200m and 4x100m competitor, 1964)
  • Tanni Grey-Thompson (Paralympic winner of 11 golds, 4 silvers and 1 bronzes, 1998-2004)
  • Jacqui Agyepong (100m hurdler in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics)
  • David Bedford (1972 Olympian in 5,000m and 10,000m)
  • Roger Black (Olympic 4 x 400 relay bronze in 1992, and in 1996 a 400m silver, and a 4 x 400m relay silver)
  • Mary Peters (Winner of the 1972 Olympic gold in the pentathlon)
  • Daley Thompson (Decathlon Olympic gold medalist in 1980 and 1984)
  • Geoff Capes (1976, 1980 and 1984 Olympic shot putter)
  • Liz McColgan (Olympic silver in 1988 in 10,000m)

Other interviewees offering fascinating insights into Olympic and sporting history include:
  • The late marathon runner Jim Peters who, in 1953, was the first runner to complete a marathon under 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Don Thompson, who won Olympic gold for the 50k walk in 1964
  • Bill Roberts, winner of gold in the 4x400m relay at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
  • Sybil Canadine, the first girl guide in 1909 who later refused to swim for Great Britain at the Berlin Olympics in 1936
  • Memories of the first Paralympics/Olympic Games for people with disabilities in 1952 at Stoke Mandeville, from William Burn
  • Colin Hancock, dentist to the British Olympic team at the Barcelona Games
  • Stuart Devlin, who designed the 2000 Sydney Olympics gold coin series

Rob Perks, the British Library’s Lead Curator of Oral History, said: “These recordings are drawn from a number of oral history collections archived at the British Library – together they form a compelling picture of the lives and careers of athletes over the last century. The selection includes interviews with track, field and road athletes, fencers, canoeists and swimmers. Sports fans in particular will find them vivid and insightful. These are stories not only about winning medals but about years of struggle, grind and hard work.”

The recordings appear ahead of the Library’s forthcoming Olympic exhibition, Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games, opening July 25, which is a free exhibition of Olympic memorabilia in the Front Hall of the British Library at St Pancras: www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/olympex2012/index.html

For more information contact:


The British Library houses one of the largest oral history archives in the world, encompassing over 350 collections of some 60,000 recordings. It is the national centre for oral history in the UK, and provides advice and training in oral history methods whilst maintaining close contact with oral history groups both in the UK and overseas. Further details are available at www.bl.uk/oralhistory

Information about the oral history collections is provided through the Sound and Moving Image catalogue at www.cadensa.bl.uk and listeners can come into the British Library to use the recordings. A growing number of interviews are being digitised for remote web access through www.bl.uk/sounds. For more information about sports oral history visit http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/sound/ohist/ohcoll/ohsport/sport.html

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.  



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