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Let the Games Begin!

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Tonight the 2012 Olympics in London kick off. The excitement has certainly been building all year as enthusiasts have followed the torch relay and

participating athletes and teams. I can admit that the games probably appeal to me for a few other different reasons than purely anticipating all the awesome competition.

Olympics 1976 by Romare Bearden / Prints and Photographs Division

First, my favorite band, MUSE, not only participated in the torch relay but also contributed one of five official songs for this year’s summer games. They are supposedly performing in tonight’s opening ceremony.

Second, it was announced earlier this month that roller derby is one of the contenders to be included in the 2020 games. As a player and enthusiast, this makes me beyond excited. And, trust me, the sport already has Olympic-worthy athletes. Roller sports, which would include roller derby, was actually on the list of sports considered for the 2012 Summer Olympics but didn’t make it, along with squash, karate, golf and rugby sevens. However you can catch a glimpse of derby, somewhat, in tonight’s opening ceremony, as the London Roller Girls are participating.

This year’s summer games include 26 sports, including archery, rowing, tennis, shooting and water polo. And some of these sports are further broken down into disciplines. For example, cycling includes BMX, mountain biking, road and track. For the first time, women’s boxing is also being included.

Until 1992, both the summer and winter games were held in the same year. Since then, they have been held two years apart. The original Olympic Games were first recorded in 776 B.C. in Olympia, Greece, and were celebrated until A.D. 393. The ancient stadium in Olympia could accommodate more than 40,000 spectators, while in the surrounding area there were auxiliary buildings that developed gradually up until the 4th century B.C. and were used as training sites for the athletes or to house the judges of the games. The ancient Olympic Games included running, jumping, the discus throw, wrestling, boxing and equestrian events.

Olympia, the site of original Olympic Games / Prints and Photographs Division

Interest in reviving the Olympic Games was first shown by the Greek poet and newspaper editor Panagiotis Soutsos in his poem “Dialogue of the Dead” in 1833. Evangelos Zappas sponsored the first modern international Olympic Games in 1859. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was founded in 1894 on the initiative of French nobleman Pierre Fredy, Baron de Coubertin. The first of the IOC’s Olympic Games were the 1896 Summer Olympics held in Athens.

The Library holds a range of materials on the Olympic Games, and you can find them through this guide to reference sources.

Searching the Prints and Photographs Division Online Catalog for “Olympic Games” turns up images from games in Berlin, Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City and Moscow. You can also search for early 20th-century newspaper articles featuring Olympic headlines in Chronicling America.

Want to know a little more about the United Kingdom, from a map’s perspective? The country is featured as part of this month’s Places in the News.

Make sure to check out what the other Library blogs are posting on the subject, including highlighting the London games then and now, Olympic laws, athlete Jesse Owens, Olympic poetry and the now-discontinued sport of tug of war.

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