With the greatest Games in the world descending on dear old Blighty, it’s time to get physical and embrace the sporting life. Alternatively, sentient cineastes and telly addicts can live vicariously through this new collection documenting a century of sport and exercise around the UK. Footie fans can enjoy Edwardian matches courtesy of Mitchell & Kenyon and gain inspiration from Charlton’s Champions (1974). Row through Cambridge with Bumps on the River Cam (1922) and glide to Peckham, home of Silver Blades Ice Skating (1960). The quirkier end of the spectrum features a brawling medieval precursor to football (“Uppies and Downies”, 1926), the perplexing Eton Wall Game (1921), and some handy Hints to the Ladies on Jiu-jitsu (1926).
The Olympics themselves feature, from precious footage of the 1908 London Games to the short films produced to back the successful 2012 bid. The imminent transformation of the East London landscape and its impact on communities is reflected upon to poignant effect in What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day? (2006) and This Was Forever (2007). Hilary Powell’s cheeky short The Games (2007) takes a more surreal, albeit very British approach, as an unlikely band of athletes compete among the rubble of the future Olympic site.
Ten to try
1908 Olympics (1908)
Surviving footage of marathon and track-and-field events during London’s first-ever stint as host city.
Battling Bruisers (1925)
Effeminate fisticuffs from the French in this sporting send-up of foreign stereotypes.
Urdd Gobaith Cymru – Anenwadol ac Amhleidiol (1930)
Gymnastics, athletics, swimming and dancing are on the agenda for Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards’ Welsh League of Youth.
Jack Petersen v. Hein Muller (1933)
The great Welsh heavyweight boxer takes on the German champion in this historic Cardiff fight.
Scotland for Fitness (1938)
Scots learn how to ‘correct faults in themselves caused by the wrong kind of activity’.
Derby Youth (1947)
The youth of yesterday keep out of mischief and in shape at the gym.
The sweet sound of leather on willow: a history of the English game.
World Cup Final ‘66 (1966)
The BBC Grandstand broadcast of a truly iconic event in British sport.
The Body Show (1982)
Legwarmers at the ready: Channel 4 taps into the 80s ‘keep fit’ craze.
What Will You Be Doing in 2012? (2004)
East London schoolchildren discuss their hopes for 2012 in this back-the-bid promotional film.