Late last month, London celebrated one year to go until the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. The milestone was marked with a series of events in Trafalgar Square and at Olympic venues, including here at the Olympic Stadium in London’s east where the number one was mown into the grass. In Trafalgar Square, meanwhile, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge formally invited the world’s athletes to attend the games and unveiled the medals while at the newly completed Aquatic Centre, British diver Tom Daley became the first athlete to break the waters. For more see www.london2012.com.
• Earlier this month it was former US President Ronald Reagan’s turn to be honored with statue in Grosvenor Square. Last week it was the turn of former Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – the first man in space – to be so honored with a new statue located outside the British Council’s offices in the Mall (opposite another explorer, Captain James Cook). The statue, a gift of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, was unveiled to mark the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s celebratory visit to London on 14th July, 1961, just three months after he completed his orbit of the earth on 12th April that year. The 3.5 metre high zinc alloy figure stands close to Admiralty Arch which was where Gagarin met then Prime Minister Harold MacMillan after he was invited to the UK by the National Union of Foundrymen. Among those present for the unveiling of the statue – which is a replica of one in the town of Lubertsy where Gagarin worked as a foundryman as a teenager – was Gagarin’s daughter Elena Gagarina, now director of the Kremlin Museums, and Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency. The British Council is running an exhibition, Gagarin in Britain, which looks at the life of Gagarin and the early Soviet space programme, until 14th September – among the objects on display is the first space suit and an ejector seat similar to that Gargarin used when he ejected out of Vostok 1. Entry is by registration only and space is limited – email email@example.com is you’d like to register for a place. For more information, see www.britishcouncil.org. PICTURE: Frank Noon/British Council
• A new iPhone app which directs people to key sites in what was Roman London (Londinium) will go live on Monday. Developed by the Museum of London and the History Channel, Streetmuseum Londonium will bring to life some of the city’s most significant Roman sites, such as the amphitheatre at Guildhall, using “augmented reality video” which will overlay scenes of Roman London over the modern city while soundscapes will allow users to listen to a ritual at the Temple of Mithras or traders at the forum. In addition, users will be able to ‘digitally excavate’ Roman artifacts including leather bikini briefs and an ancient manicure set. Navigation to these “immersive experiences” will be via a specially created new map of Roman London which will be superimposed on a modern map of the capital, allowing users to see how the city has changed. The launch follows the earlier creation of the Streetmuseum app which guides people to more than 200 sites across the city. More than 200,000 people from across the world have so far downloaded this. Streetmuseum Londinium will be available free to download from 25th July. See www.museumoflondon.org.uk/apps for more.
• London will mark one year to go until the Olympic Games next Wednesday with a ceremony in Trafalgar Square which will be broadcast live on BBC1. Among those present with be the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) chairman Sebastian Coe and Mayor of London Boris Johnson. The event will also feature a live cross to the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park where Olympic hopeful Tom Daley will make the first dive into the pool.
• The British Library hopes to raise £2.75 million to acquire the world’s earliest surviving intact European book, the 7th century St Cuthbert Gospel. A copy of the Gospel of St John, the book was buried with St Cuthbert on the isle of Lindisfarne in 698 and later found in the saint’s coffin in Durham Cathedral in 1104. The National Heritage Fund Memorial has already awarded £4.5 million to obtain the St Cuthbert Gospel and the Art Fund and The Garfield Weston Foundation have donated £250,000 each. The book has been on long-term loan to the library since 1979 and is regularly on view in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery. The library was approached last year and given first option to acquire the text after the Society of Jesus (British Province) decided to sell it. A price of £9 million has been agreed, of which £2.75 million remains outstanding. For more, see www.bl.uk.