Electronic Learning

The Olympic Games
By Darcy Lockman
Location, location, location: Olympic Games Past and Present

Activity: Take your students all over the world map to discover where the first recorded Olympic Games was held, and where the modern games have taken place. Ask your map detectives discuss how climate affects the selection of locations. See if they can figure out how far different athletes have to travel to make it to their events.

1. As a group, look at your classroom world map or the on-line maps cited below. The first recorded Olympic Games took place almost 3,000 years ago in ancient Greece, in a rural area called Olympia. Can students find modern Greece on the map? (Ask students: where do we get the word Olympic?)

On-Line Theme Unit




2. The modern Olympic Games began over 100 years ago, in 1896. Ask students if they can name some of the American cities in which the games have taken place (these include St. Louis, Lake Placid, Los Angeles, Squaw Valley and Atlanta). What states are these cities in? Can they find these states and cities on the map cited below?

3. Locate Sydney, Australia, on the map. Looking at the map together, ask your class why they think Australia is sometimes called "the land down under."

4. Have any of your students ever been to Australia? Using the Web pages cited below, have them explore the country in which the Olympic Games will be taking place. Then have each child, based on what he or she has learned, design a postcard from a pretend trip to Australia. The picture side should be decorated with a drawing or photograph of something representative of Australia. On the other side, they should write a message to a parent or friend incorporating the following information:

  • the significance of the picture they chose (e.g., Kangaroos are native to Australia)
  • what the weather is like
  • a historical fact about Australia
  • something they will see while they are there

5. Does anyone have an idea why the summer games are being held there in September, which is early fall for North Americans? Using the site listed below, ask children to determine what season it will be in Sydney when the Olympic Games takes place. (The equinox on September 21 marks the beginning of fall for the northern hemisphere; the beginning of spring for the southern hemisphere. So the "summer" Games in Sydney are really taking place in the Australian late winter/early spring.)

6. The winter games in 2002 will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah. Ask your students why they think the winter games will be there, as opposed to in, say, Honolulu, Hawaii. Discuss how the climates of different cities have made them desirable Olympic locations. What sort of climate must a ski race take place in? How about a gymnastics competition?

7. As a class, discuss what factors in addition to climate would need to taken into account for a city that hosts the Olympic Games (facilities for the sports events, accommodations for the athletes — or the room to build them — accommodations for the spectators, food for everyone, local transportation, long-distance transportation, and so on). Would your own town would be a good place to host the Games? Why or why not? Make a list of pros and cons on the board, or divide the class into teams and hold a debate.

8. This fall, thousands of athletes will travel from their homes all over the world to Sydney, Australia, to compete in the Olympic Games. They will travel many miles and cross many time zones. Divide your class into seven small groups to trace the journeys of Olympic athletes from their hometowns to Sydney. Then answer four mind-boggling map questions about mileage and time zones. (Please note: Use a detailed large world map or print atlas for this exercise; the on-line maps are too small.)

Assign one of the athletes below to each team:

Oscar Chaplin III Weightlifter Savannah, Georgia (United States)
Rob Waddell Rower Cambridge (New Zealand)
Fernando Platas Diver Mexico City (Mexico)
Liu Ailing Soccer Beijing (China)
Svetlana Khorkina Gymnast Moscow (Russia)
Paul Tergat Track & Field Nairobi (Kenya)
Svetlana Khorkina Swimmer Moscow (Russia)

After locating their athlete's hometown on the world map, each team should calculate:

  • Approximately how many miles is it from the athlete's home town to Sydney, Australia?
  • How many time zones will the athlete cross in traveling to Sydney?
  • Will he or she cross the International Date Line to get there?
  • If it is 12 noon Monday in Sydney, what time is it in the athlete's hometown?


World Map

Map of Europe

Map of U.S.

Map of Australia

Facts about Australia:


Hemisphere and seasons: