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.