This post is part of Viator’s coverage of the London Olympics. Leading up to the Games and every day during the Games, we’ll be posting tips from our London-based blogger, Philippa. Be sure to check back often for the latest updates on happenings around London, news on special events and tips for what to see and do in London and the surrounding area while you’re visiting!
Who is the oldest Olympian ever? Who was the youngest to ever win a medal? Who has made the most Olympic games appearances? Who began the Modern Olympics? Which country decided Beach Volleyball should be an Olympic sport? And BMX racing?
If you’ve ever wondered the answers to some or all of these questions, then London has the answers for you in the many exhibitions around town at the moment.
1. Royal Opera House
The most all-informative is at the Royal Opera house, a special Olympics exhibition, The Olympic Journey – The Story of the Games, which is free and includes artefacts from athletes through the ages, audio and film, the summer Olympic Medals since 1896 and the summer Olympic Torches since 1936. It’s only on until the games close on August 12th.
2. The National Portrait Gallery
It has the inspiring Road to 2012, photographs telling the stories of how the games came together in London. It was a three year project – the biggest photographic commission ever undertaken by the National Portrait Gallery – and features athletes posing as the modern day gladiators they are. There are also photos of the organizers, volunteers – even the man who runs the nursery where many of the trees for the Olympic Park were grown. It’s on until September 23rd.
This museums exhibit of the Games and Paralympic Games medals continues until September 9th, so if you didn’t manage to win gold yourself, this is your chance to get up close and personal to an Olympic Medal.
4. British Library
At the library just up the road from St Pancras/King’s Cross Station, there’s a free exhibit of Olympic memorabilia including postage stamps, postcards and letters. Olympex 2012 brings to light lots of individual Olympic stories until September 9th.
5. Tate Britain
It has an exhibition of Olympics posters, 12 officially commissioned posters by some of the UK’s best artists including Tracey Emin, Martin Creed, Gary Hume, Bridget Riley and Fiona Banner. See it before it is over on September 23rd.
6. Designed to Win – Design Museum
The museum looks at how equipment and stadium design can affect sporting performances. There are films and photographs, models and interactive displays. It’s open until November 18th.
7. Art of the Olympians at UCL Bloomsbury Campus
This harks back to Ancient Greece when Olympic athletes were all-round role models: they could run, jump, paint and write poetry. These days our Olympians tend to be more specialized, but there are a few who dabble in the arts. The Art of the Olympians Museum and Gallery in Fort Myers, Florida is coming to University College London in Bloomsbury (near Russell Square) this month. It includes pieces by Shane Gould, Peggy Fleming, Kader Klouchi, Florence Griffith Joyner and Allison Wagner until August 15th.
8. London and the Olympics at the Museum of London
Few cities have hosted the Olympics three times, so the Museum of London has chosen to commemorate this momentous occasion by looking back at London in 1908 and 1948. The free exhibition recounts touching individual stories and significant events. It’s open up until September.
9. Olympians at Madame Tussauds; Madame Tussauds
The Olympics make great athletes into worldwide celebrities. Madame Tussauds London has developed an interactive sporting zone that features some of the country’s greatest sporting stars. From this year’s Games there are Jessica Ennis, Tom Daley and Usain Bolt, also past greats Jesse Owens and Mohammed Ali. Some of the displays are interactive: join Bolt on a replica running track and step onto the winners’ podium alongside Jessica Ennis.
10. The World In London at Victoria Park
Not just a Live Site for watching the games, Victoria Park features a huge public art project initiated by the Photographers’ Gallery. There are 204 photographic portraits of Londoners, each originating from one of the nations competing at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The photographic works are exhibited as large-scale posters in Victoria Park and also on the facade of Park House, 453-497 Oxford Street, W1 (until August 30th), are by established and emerging artists and photographers. It’s open until August 12th.
11. Art in the Park
This is a series of artworks dotted around Olympic Park itself, including Fantastic Factology: plagues on benches giving interesting facts not only about the Olympics. Also dotted around the streets of inner London on the footpaths are interesting facts about the Olympics – don’t forget to watch where you walk, you might learn something new.
Read more about the Olympics.