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Resource highlight: Sport and society website

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The London 2012 Olympics is a major opportunity for business and tourism and an interesting example of management of a mega-event. This article describes a website developed by the British Library to explore the impact of the London Games and capture its legacy.

What is the Sport and Society website?

The Sport and Society website looks at the London 2012 Olympics from a specifically social sciences perspective, showing how sport generally - and the Olympics in particular - can be interpreted through issues such as ethnicity, gender, nationalism and culture, economic impact, business and sponsorship, through online content written, commissioned and illustrated by British Library staff and external researchers.

What anchors it to the Library and distinguishes it from other social sciences and sport sites is that it is based on the British Library's collections, with a full bibliography of our resources accompanying each article.

The site nevertheless reaches beyond the Library in many respects; not simply because of its external contributions, but also because of the many online resources available in the outside world to which it draws attention.

Not least of these is the UK Web Archive which has already collected 191 UK websites about the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and the LA84 site, replete with full text digital content, including every official Olympic Games report from 1896 onwards. As 2012 approaches, the website hopes to link to many other digital initiatives and create a portal to these for researchers of all ages.

The website is growing all the time - and will continue to do so until the end of 2012. At the moment it embraces the subjects which reflect the team's expertise, such as sociology, media history and politics; but we are constantly adding new themes and one of the most important for the near future is to create a set of pages and contributions which focus on the Paralympic Games. Other articles in the pipeline take a look back at the British precursors of the Olympics and Paralympics in the form of the Cotswold and Much Wenlock 'Olympics' and the disability sporting events at Stoke Mandeville.

What can I do with it?

As well as exploring topical issues such as the economic impact of the Games on London, or the opportunities it presents for business, you can use the site to find out what material is available from the British Library and beyond. Articles contain full bibliographies and links to relevant websites archived as part of the UK Web Archive.

Another feature of the website is its focus on the 2012 legacy: not just the urban and cultural legacy that the organisers hope to leave behind them - though this is looked at too - but the published legacy of the Games as well. This includes books and journals (which the British Library, as the national library of the United Kingdom receives through the legal deposit regulations). It also includes materials published only online, grey literature (publications which fall outside the usual bibliographical controls), ephemera, artefacts, websites, images, maps and plans, sound and film and so on. Libraries and archives have a huge stake in getting and preserving London 2012 material, and the website hopes to bring this awareness home.

In essence the site is for everyone, as people from all walks of life have expressed an interest: teachers and academics; school children and lifelong learners. The content on the site is accessible at several levels: you can start off with a basic introduction to a topic and then drill down into more detailed aspects of the subject, then look at the bibliographies of BL materials which accompany everything on the site. People wanting to do their own research know what we have and where they can find it and if they fancy letting us put their research on the site we're thrilled to be able to do so. What we'll end up with is something serendipitous which in many ways exemplifies how the web works. It's a combined effort which benefits all parties, not least the library itself which in the course of its researches into the collections actually gets to find out what it holds on a particular subject - not always an easy task!

Where next? is the inevitable question; to which the answer is more contributions; an events page; new book announcements; and hopefully the addition of other media such as sound and film. At the end of which, the website will be archived in the UK Web Archive and will be available for researchers in perpetuity. It won't be the last word on London 2012 - what could be? But it will provide a legacy for the researchers of the future, giving them a better idea of what was created to celebrate the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics and in particular, how the BL was able to support research on sport and on the Games.

How and where can I use it?

The Sport & Society website is freely available on the open web i.e. you don't need to register to use it. We're interested in your comments and suggestions and offers of content and written contributions, see:

Getting started with the Sport & Society website

This resource is available on the open web, without registration.

Further reading


British Library Sport & Society website

UK Web Archive

LA84 website

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