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Opening of New Suffolk Olympic and Paralympic Exhibition Marks One Year to go to London 2012

LtoR: Paralympic athletes Michael Hervey Murray, Kevin Curtis and Brian Alldis.

A new exhibition which provides a fascinating insight into Suffolk’s Olympic and Paralympic heritage opened in Bury St Edmunds yesterday evening (Wednesday 27 July), marking one year to the day until the Olympic Games.

Lap of Honour is a project which has celebrated the Suffolk Olympic and Paralympic games heritage by filmed interviews with those who participated online at www.suffolklapofhonour.org.uk.  The four year oral history project programme was managed by Suffolk Artlink on behalf of Suffolk County Council.

An area of the ‘Suffolk’s Lap of Honour’ exhibition will in the future be dedicated to the Go Rwanda project set up by St Edmundsbury Steering Group for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to provide a lasting legacy from the Bury St Edmunds Pre-Games Training Camp.

An Inspire Mark has been awarded by London 2012 to the Suffolk’s Lap of Honour exhibition and to ‘Lap of Honour’, the oral history project.  It is very rare for one project to be awarded more than one Inspire Mark.

For the first time in its history three adjoining areas of Moyse’s Hall Museum will be used for this special exhibition which features film footage, audio, memorabilia, photographs and interactive exhibits. There will be nine key areas to the exhibition focusing on Olympic qualities including aspiration, commitment, determination and hardship, achievement, disappointment, and excellence.

Alan Baxter, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Heritage Manager, said: “This project for the first time pulls together the information we have on Suffolk’s Olympic and Paralympic history from the first Games held in 1948 to London 2012.

“It tells the story of athletes from Suffolk who have competed in the Games, those who have worked behind the scenes, and the impact that the Olympics has had on the county since the Games in 1948 right up to the present day. We have had tremendous support from athletes who are hoping to compete in London 2012 to those who have had family members compete in days gone by. It is truly fascinating and we are so proud that London 2012 has awarded the project not one but two Inspire Marks.”

The exhibition includes a display of official track suit, badges, ID and memorabilia from an Olympic volunteer who worked as a masseur with Olympic swimmer Karen Pickering, plus one of Karen’s swimsuits. 

Another part of the exhibition tells the story of the Paralympics and on display is a special paralympian wheelchair.

There is also  collection of Olympic opening ceremony official blazers worn by participants from Suffolk along with their stories and photos, footage of interviews with Suffolk games participants and an unusual display featuring a year of race walker’s trainers kindly supplied by London 2012 hopeful and race walker Daniel King. Daniel, from Colchester, has been competing at an International level for the Great Britain Race Walking team.

Cllr Sara Mildmay White, Deputy Leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council said: "This beautifully presented exhibition tells the compelling stories of the athletes, past and present, who live alongside us in Suffolk. I am delighted that St Edmundsbury has grasped the Olympic ideal in the widest sense, in supporting opportunities for sport participation; in making lasting links with the Rwanda, whose teams we are looking forward to hosting; and in celebrating our own champions as part of the Cultural Olympiad. I recommend a visit. ”

The Deputy High Commissioner of Rwanda Linda Kalimba attended the opening along with athletes who had given their stories and memorabilia to the oral history project and the exhibition.

Visitors will be able to join in the Olympic theme by designing their own gold medal and posing for photos in a London 2012 track suit on the Lap of Honour podium.

Suffolk’s Lap of Honour booklet will be produced in early 2012 to summarise the exhibition elements and the impact of the Games in Suffolk leading up to 2012. The booklet and the text panels in the exhibition have been prepared with the aid of a People’s Record grant from The Museums Libraries and Archives Council.

The exhibition will close after the games, in September 2012.