Portraits show Olympians' 'spirit of greatness'


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The Independent Culture

The National Portrait Gallery has unveiled its largest commission to date, the culmination of three years’ work, dedicated to the “spirit of greatness” of those involved in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Road to 2012: Aiming High exhibition has more than 100 photographs on display with portraits of athletes and artists, to administrators, torchbearers, soil experts and chefs working in the Olympic Park.

Sandy Nairne, director of the NPG, said the exhibition hoped to capture “the spirit of greatness of all those making the Olympic and Paralympic Games”.

He told a packed audience, which included gallery patron the Duchess of Cambridge: “It celebrates exceptional British sportspeople, and some of the crucial figures working behind the scenes; whether they be coaches and managers or soil engineers, architects or the producers of the key ceremonies”.

Athletes photographed include the men’s rowing eight and cyclist Mark Cavendish, while portraits of rising stars include British discus record holder Lawrence Okoye and taekwondo fighter Jade Jones.

The exhibition celebrates Paralympians with portraits including swimmer Eleanor Simmonds and former champion, and director of Paralympic integration, Chris Holmes.

Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson spoke at the event, backing the exhibition and said the Paralympic Games in London would “raise the bar” from all previous stagings of the event. She added: “Ten years from now, we will look back and say the Olympics and Paralympics were the best thing to happen to the country in a long time.”

Creative figures featured in the exhibition include Anish Kapoor, whose Orbit sculpture stands outside the Olympic Park, Martin Creed, who will mark the start of the Games with a bell-ringing project, and director Stephen Daldry, the executive producer of ceremonies at the Games.

The photographers involved in the project included Anderson & Low, Jillian Edelstein, Nadav Kander and Emma Hardy.