In London, a chance to play athlete
At the V&A Museum of Childhood, young Olympians can test their own physical prowess against historical records. (Sean O'Neill)
A racing bike simulator, a long jump competition and an electronic dance floor aren't what you'd expect to find at a museum.
But these are key interactive elements of a free London-2012-themed exhibition titled Beautiful Games at the V&A Museum of Childhood, a satellite of the Victoria & Albert Museum located in Bethnal Green in East London.
Through 9 September, children are invited to step into the role of athletes in life-size sets that portray how sporting events have evolved over time and with hands-on activities that complement the displays of historical artefacts from athletic history.
In one gallery, children are encouraged to try on over their clothes the baggy bathing gear worn during Victorian-era swimming competitions. Visitors can then compare the knitted suits with nearby mannequins that have been dressed in today's sleek, hydrodynamic swimming costumes.
Other activities encourage young people to test their own physical prowess against the historical records set by champions, such as by riding a stationary bike and comparing one's speed with world records set by adult cyclists.
Children can also leap along a corridor that is marked with the medal-setting distances achieved by long jumpers, such as the US’ Jackie Joyner-Kersee's 7.40m record for the women's long jump at the 1988 Seoul Games. They can also show off their footwork using a dance floor simulator that measures foot strike speed.
Concurrent to the Beautiful Games is a Museum of Childhood exhibition that showcases stuffed toy versions of the more than 50 animal-inspired mascots for Olympiads since the first one in 1972 (Waldi, the dachshund, for the Munich Games).
One of the cutest is Misha, a bear that was the fuzzy star of the partially boycotted 1980 Games in Moscow. The modest display, titled Mascots of the Olympic Games, is open until 28 October.