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British Olympic Association Archive Collection

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2381 BOA
Held at: University of East London
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Full title: British Olympic Association Archive Collection
Date(s): 1906-2009
Level of description: Collection (Fonds)
Extent: 69 shelves
Name of creator(s): British Olympic Association
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The International Olympic Committee, formed in 1894, held its 4th Session in London between 20-22 June 1904. Three of the main organizers of this meeting were Sir Howard Vincent, the Rev Robert Stuart de Courcy Laffan and Charles Herbert, who were the British representatives on the IOC. One of the main results of the Session was the formation of the British Olympic Association (BOA) in the House of Commons on 24 May 1905. William Henry Grenfell MP, later Lord Desborough, was elected as its first chairman with de Courcy Laffan as its honorary secretary. Its remits were to spread in Great Britain the knowledge of the Olympic movement, to guarantee that the views of British sporting associations had due weight and influence in the organisation of the Olympic Games and to ensure the participation both in the Olympic Games and international athletic congresses, of representatives properly accredited by official Sporting Associations and to facilitate the attendance of such representatives. The original committee was made up of members from seven national governing bodies of sport, but today all 33 summer and winter Olympic sports are represented.

In 1906, when Rome pulled out of hosting the 1908 Olympic Games it had been awarded at the 4th IOC Session, Lord Desborough proposed that London should step in. With only two years to organize the event, the 1908 Games utilised existing venues, most notably the White City Stadium which was being constructed for the Franco-British Exhibition. When London was again awarded the Olympic Games with two years notice in 1946, this tactic of exploiting established venues was similarly employed.

One of the fundamental functions of the BOA is to provide the funding and organization to ensure that a Great Britain Team competes at the Olympic Games. Between 1936 and 1976 financial support came from nationwide public appeals for funds. However when the Government wished the British Team to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the BOA realised that the public was unlikely to be willing to support such a cause. Under the leadership of Sir Denis Follows and influenced by the spirit of Olympism which transcends all political interference, the BOA decided to send a British Team from its own funds, a move which left it virtually bankrupt. Conscious of safeguarding against relying on such inconsistent sources of income in the future, the BOA was one of the first national Olympic committees who sought additional funding from industry such as sponsorship and merchandising.

The BOA also offers elite athletes other support services, such as medical and physiological facilities to ensure that a GB Team attending each Games is as best prepared as it can be.

As the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Britain, the BOA is also involved in the selection process for candidate cities wishing to host the Olympic Games.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of the British Olympic Association, 1906-2009, comprising:

Minutes of the Council of the British Olympic Association, 1906-1928; minutes of the committees and sub committees of the British Olympic Association, notably: Finance Committee, later General Purposes Committee, later Executive Committee, 1919-2009; Housing Committee, 1926-1936; Parliamentary Sports Committee, 1952-1970; Olympic Day Sub-Committee, 1978-1984; National Olympic Committee, 1987-2009;

Administrative records, mostly correspondence relating to David George Brownlow Cecil, Lord Burghley, later Marquess of Exeter, in his roles as chair and later president of the British Olympic Association, member of the International Olympic Committee and also president of the International Amateur Athletics Federation, 1951-1957;

Correspondence and administrative records of the General Secretary of the British Olympic Association, 1910-1977 [incomplete]; correspondence, reports and papers relating to Parliamentary debates and central government committees on the subject of sport, 1960-1995, including material relating to the proposed boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, 1980; invitations, menus and programmes for fundraising events organised by the British Olympic Association, 1908-2006; publications, articles, conference papers and text of speeches written mostly by members of the British Olympic Association, 1904-[2000;.

Results, correspondence, reports and other papers relating to the British Olympic Association's Medical Research Project to determine the physical effects of altitude training on athletes in preparation for the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, 1965-1968;

Newspaper cuttings on sporting subjects, with an emphasis on British sportsmen and women and their achievements including cuttings collated on Olympic and Commonwealth Games, 1923-1975, 1983-1989;

Pamphlets, programmes, press cuttings and commemorative material relating to the 1908 London Olympic Games, 1906-1908, 2007-2008;

Minute books, agreements and licences, financial records, press cuttings, photographs, programmes and tickets relating to the 1948 London Olympic Games, 1936-1952; album containing press cuttings, photographs, programmes and other ephemera collated by John Emrys Lloyd mostly concerning the 1948 Games, in particular the fencing events, 1937-1977;

Papers relating to the preparations for the 2012 London Olympic Games, including: reports, briefing papers and feasibility studies mostly commissioned by the BOA in consideration of London bidding to host the Olympic Games, 1978-2003; minutes of evidence, briefing papers, copy correspondence, memoranda, press cuttings, press releases and notes relating to local and central Government committee's investigations into the staging of international sporting events, the construction of a national stadium and supporting bids from British cities to host the Olympic Games, 1990-2003; pamphlets and newsletters providing updates on the progress of the construction and organization for the 2012 London Olympic Games, 2004-2008; press cuttings mostly on sporting subjects but including articles showing support for or controversies surrounding London's bid for the Olympic Games, 2002-2007;

Biographical information, mostly taken from journal articles, concerning Great Britain's Olympic champions, 1948-2006, notably including medals, trophies, certificates and photographs, 1944-2005, relating to the cyclist Wilfred Waters who was a bronze medallist for Great Britain at the 1948 London Olympic Games;

Material relating to the International Olympic Committee, including minutes, papers, agendas and other administrative material concerning the general meetings or sessions of the International Olympic Committee and its sub-committees, 1939-1981; presentation documents, reports and other material relating to prospective cities' bids to the IOC to be considered as host for the 1936-2016 summer and winter Olympic Games between, 1933-2009 [incomplete];

Progress reports, sports programmes, newsletters, rules and regulations for participants, and other commemorative material, mostly produced by the Organizing Committees for each summer and winter Olympic Games, [1896]-2008 [incomplete].

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Mostly English but including items in Belgian Dutch, Chinese, Czechoslovakian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Serbo-Croat; Spanish, Swedish.

System of arrangement:

Apart from a few series, the majority of the collection had no arrangement as such. Previously it had been shelved to fit in with the arrangement of the BOA's book collection.

Conditions governing access:

Access is by appointment only, please contact the Archives Department, University of East London, for information. See: www.uel/lls/archives

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies, subject to copyright and the condition of the original, may be supplied. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the archivist.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue available online at Archives Hub, see link above.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Between 1988 and 1994, the offices of the British Olympic Association suffered a series of floods. A large proportion of the library and archive collection was either destroyed or damaged, resulting in significant gaps in series.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred from the British Olympic Association in three accessions between 2009-2010.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The University of East London also holds the reference library of the British Olympic Association which is currently undergoing cataloguing. Within the third accession of material was the extant collection of the Commonwealth Games Federation, 1930s-1994, however the majority of it is severely water damaged and will be closed for the forseeable future until extensive conservation can be undertaken.

Papers of Cdr F W Collins, RN, who was responsible for the organisation of the 1948 Olympic Torch Relay held at Loughborough University, ref: D70/1/5/9; Archives of the International Olympic Committee are held by the Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: British Olympic Council. 'Fourth Olympiad being the official report of the Olympic Games of 1908', British Olympic Association, 1908; Anthony, Don. 'Minds, bodies and souls. An anthology of the Olympic Heritage Network', British Olympic Association, [1996]; British Olympic Association website: (accessed October 2010).

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
October 2010

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