Memory Marathon is the Start of London Olympics 2012

memory marathon photo

Images by B. Alter from the film Memory Marathon

For all of those suffering Olympic withdrawal (that means most Canadians) we bring you the Memory Marathon. It's part of the cultural offerings of London's upcoming summer Olympics in 2012. It is about the importance of personal memories, in this case those of past Olympics.

The artist Simon Pope walked a specially planned 26 mile marathon through the five London boroughs where the Olympics will take place. He spoke to hundreds of people, passing the torch, which was a microphone in his case, and recorded their recollections of past Olympics.

pass torch photo

Passing the "torch"

The marathon started at dawn and covered 26 miles. It took place in the five boroughs that will host the games in 2012. Twelve hours later it ended at the entrance to the Olympic Park. Each participant walked a 400 metre stretch and then passed on the "torch" to the next person in line.

Simon Pope advertised in the local paper for people who had memories of the Olympics that they wanted to share and came up with more than a hundred people in East London who did. They represented all ages and backgrounds in this rough and tough part of town. It's an old working class area with all kinds of ethnic groups as well as old-timers whose families have lived there forever.

The entire marathon was filmed on video and turned into an 80 minute movie. It's a lovely compendium of young and old and different kinds of memory. One woman remembered loving Daley Thompson and pretending to be him in the school playground. Coincidentally, her stretch took her past her old primary school and she was dismayed to find that it had been torn down. One man remembered the buzz of the crowd as the torch got nearer and he could see the flame. Another remembered her pride when Steve Redgrave won five consecutive medals for Britain.

old timers photo

One old-timer remembered watching a runner collapsing at the end of the marathon. Another said: "You had to use your imagination because when you listened to things on the radio and you watch them on the newsreel the week after, you see two entirely different things..." Another recalled the games in Los Angeles in 1984, with everyone talking about it in the school playground. Another had memories of track and field events seen in other countries. One talked about the Sydney games and how they had been one big party. A woman talked about loving the memory of seeing her country win a medal.

Everyone was looking forward with great pride and excitement at having the games in London in 2012. For all the nay-saying and negativity about how the Brit's will ever carry it off, this group showed the enthusiasm and patriotism that the Games can instill.

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