National Portrait Gallery holds Olympic records

By Ben Miller | 27 July 2010
A photo of a young athletic woman

(Above) Medal winner Jessica Ennis, pictured here at Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, is one of the stars of the Setting Out exhibition in celebration of the two-year countdown to the Olympics in London. Image © Bettina von Zwehl

Exhibition: Road to 2012: Setting Out, National Portrait Gallery, London, until September 26 2010

Following the success of the nationwide Open Weekend last weekend, today marks exactly two years until the London 2012 Olympics.

As Lord Coe and Boris Johnson take to St Pancras station to ramp up the excitement, this show at the NPG is already in a celebratory mood, capturing some of the movers and shakers who contributed to the bid.

They are taken by veteran pop photographer Brian Griffin and his younger German contemporary Bettina von Zwehl, whose atmospheric portraits have been the focus for major shows at the Photographers' Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood and internationally during the past decade.

A photo of a young athletic man on a beach

Diving prodigy Tom Daley takes a step away from the water in Plymouth. Image © Bettina von Zwehl

Thirty of their 100 commissions for the Games are on display here, from Tom Daley – the precocious young diver who became Britain's youngest-ever senior European champion at the age of 14 in 2008 – to Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London whose ebullient support for the campaign and its potential to regenerate East London will be a PR dream for his planned attempt at re-election in 2012.

Von Zwehl's raft of athletic stars include Jessica Ennis, the world heptathlon and indoor pentathlon champion, and Victoria Pendleton, the gold medalist whose fleet-footed pedaling has put British cycling in the limelight.

A photo of a young woman in a white dress

British swimming superstar and double gold medal winner Rebecca Adlington. Image © Bettina von Zwehl

All the sitters accompany the works with insights into their inspirations. "As a kid I always wanted to be really good at something," says Pendleton, sounding surprisingly fragile.

"I needed to almost validate my worth. I always enjoyed sport and my dad was successful and competitive. That's what I wanted to emulate."

A photo of two men in suits

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and ex-London Delivery Agency leader Tony Winterbottom are among the figures honoured for their part in the successful bid. Image © Brian Griffin

Griffin's eye turns to David Higgins, the Australian boss of the Olympic Delivery Authority lauded for designing the Olympic Park on budget and time, and Denise Lewis and Jonathan Edwards, the former domestic Olympic heroes who acted as ambassadors for the bid.

An interactive exhibition encouraging the public to contribute their own nominations for unsung architects of the Games, the show also marks “an important moment” for the Gallery, says Director Sandy Nairne.

"It not only shows extraordinary people connected to the Games, it tells their amazing stories and shares their inspirations," he explains.

"The Gallery very much hopes that visitors will take part in the project by coming to see the exhibition or by getting involved through our website."

All images: National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project

Visit the project website for more.

Keep up to date with Culture24's exhibition news, reviews and previews with iGoogle - a more personal way to use
Add to Google

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
  • Back to top
  • | Print this article
  • | Email this article
  • | Bookmark and Share


  • 1 mile
  • 2 miles
  • 3 miles
  • 4 miles
  • 5 miles
  • 10 miles
  • 20 miles
  • 50 miles
  • Any time
  • Today
  • This week
  • This month
  • This year