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Lesson 1: Understanding the Modern Olympic Games

Goals: Students will use their understanding of the history of the Olympic Games to write an essay.
Time Required: 45 minutes
Materials: Understanding the Modern Olympic Games Student Reproducible 1 (PDF), pencil or pen, access to reference materials
1. Introduce students to the ancient Olympic Games and explain how the modern Olympic Games developed.

History of the Olympic Games
The first recorded Olympic Games were part of a religious festival honoring Zeus, father of all Greek gods and goddesses. The ancient games began in 776 B.C. and were held in Olympia, Greece. Only male athletes competed and they traveled from all over the Greek world to participate. Ancient Olympic Games included running races, wrestling, boxing, pentathlon, horse racing, and chariot racing and occurred every four years from 776 B.C. until 393 A.D. In 1896, Baron Pierre de Coubertin (a French nobleman) revived the Olympic Games, and Athens, Greece, became the host of the first modern Olympics. De Coubertin believed that the sporting events and gathering of athletes would inspire peace and goodwill. In 1900, women were allowed to compete, and over the years many more sports have been included. In 1921, the International Olympic Committee voted to stage “International Sports Week 1924” in Chamonix, France. This event welcomed 258 athletes (11 women, 247 men) from 16 nations who participated in 16 events. At the first event, speed skating, U.S. skater Charles Jewtraw won the first gold medal. This event was later referred to as the First Olympic Winter Games.

2. Ask students if they know where any past Olympic Games have been held (e.g., Salt Lake City, Sydney, Atlanta, Lake Placid). Explain that the 2006 Winter Olympic Games will be held in Torino, Italy.

3. Discuss how the Olympic Games are a place for countries to come together and celebrate the pinnacle of excellence in sporting achievement. Explain that the Olympic rings represent many things to different people, including the five continents, peace, harmony, unity, friendship, and sport.

4. Distribute copies of Understanding the Modern Olympic Games Student Reproducible 1 (PDF) and read aloud with the class.

5. Allow students time to access reference materials in the classroom as they complete Part 1. Allow additional time for students to complete Part 2.

Let students share their essays from Part 2 of the reproducible.

Photos, left to right: © Rick Rickman/NewSport/NewSport/Corbis; © Joe Cavaretta/AP Wide World.