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April 2004 - Issue No. #53


Teaching about the Olympics

Why Teach the Olympic Games?

The Olympics comprise a unique world event which features some of the best ideals of global education (peace, health, global awareness, international cooperation), touches upon important social issues (nationalism, commercialism, competition) and involves lots of language learning and practice.

National Rivalry or International Understanding?

The Olympics were established to further world peace and international friendship by bringing youth from around the world together for two weeks every 4 years. Despite this lofty goal, it can be pretty frustrating for global educators to watch the intense competition, blatant nationalism, medal counting, commercialism and "us vs them" mentality that still characterizes much of the Olympics.

Issue #53 contains a number of activities that you might find useful for teaching about the Olympic Games:
  1. Why Teach about the Olympics?
  2. Teaching Ideas
  3. Teaching Resources (websites and books)
  4. Reading Passage: The Olympic Games
  5. Activity: Redesign the Olympics!
  6. Other activities: quizzes, games, quotes, world peace...
Also, don't forget to check out Issue #54 and Issue #55 for more ideas!


How Sports Promote World Peace

  • sports pave the way for expanded cultural and political contact between nations.

  • sports provide an example of friendly competition and exchange which can lead to improved relations between countries.

  • sports convey to the public through the media a sense of common interests shared with people across political boundaries.

  • sports enhance an understanding of other nations' peoples, values and cultures.

  • sports help to improve perceptions of other peoples and close the myth-reality gap.

  • holding international sports events requires and develops cooperation between nations
  • - adapted from Coakley, J. 1998 Sport in Society

Olympic Quiz and/or Reading Passage
Student Research Projects
  • have students research some Olympic issues (war, money, nationalism, drugs, racism, sexism, health) for group presentations or written reports.
World Geography and World Flags
  • do a lesson on world geography and world flags to prepare your students for Athens/Beijing.
Compare and Contrast
  • practice comparatives by contrasting the modern Olympics with the ancient Games.
Olympic Figures
  • study historical Olympic figures such as Pierre de Coubertin and Jesse Owens.
  • have students research and profile current Olympic athletes from foreign countries.
Adopt a Country
  • put students in pairs (or groups) and have each pair adopt one foreign nation as "their country" to research, to cheer on during the Olympics and to report on in class.
Redesign the Olympics
  • have students brainstorm ideas about how the Olympics could be redesigned to better promote international understanding.
  • if students have trouble brainstorming ways to make the Olympics less nationalistic, try "Redesign the Olympics."
Class Debate
  • do a debate: Do the Olympics promote or prevent international understanding?


Websites: Teaching Ideas

Websites: Background Info

Books: Teaching Ideas

  • Cain, J. (2004) Women in Olympic Sports: Grades 4-8. Teacher Created Materials. $11
  • Clark, R. (1987) The Summer Olympic Games. (special offers)
  • Clark, S. (2004) The Olympic Experience in Your School: Grades 4-6. Teacher Created Materials. $13
  • Housel, D. (2001) Olympic Adventures $13 Teacher Created Materials

Books: Background Info

  • Coakley, J. (1998) Sport in Society: Issues and Controversies. USA: McGraw-Hill. $20
  • Cousineau, P. (2003) The Olympic Odyssey: Rekindling the True Spirit of the Great Games. Quest. $18
  • Dorling Kindersley. (2004) The Olympic Games: Athens 1896-2004. Dorling Kindersley. $30
  • Findling, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement. Greenwood. $75
  • Fischer, D. (2004) Encyclopedia of the Summer Olympics. Watts Reference Books. $20
  • Gifford, C. (2004) Summer Olympics: The Definitive Guide. Larousse Kingfisher Chambers. $13
  • Goodwin, J. (2004) The Second Mark: Courage, Corruption and the Battle for Olympic Gold. Simon and Schuster. $25
  • Macy, S. (2004) Swifter, Higher, Stronger: A Photographic History of the Summer Olympics. National Geographic. $19
  • Miller, D. (2004) Athens to Athens: The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC. Mainstream. $60
  • Pound, R. (2004) Inside the Olympics: A Behind-the Scenes Look at the Politics, Scandals and Glory of the Games. John Wiley. $25
  • Young, D. (2004) A Brief History of the Olympics. NY: Blackwell. $20

For more books, do a web search on "Olympics" at or other on-line book sellers.

Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650