Hands-on English current events activityfor ESL

August 2000 (latest update: Aug. 22, 2000)

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*****Note: The July/August 2000 issue of Hands-on English has three more activities about the summer Olympics! They are suitable for multi-level, adult ESL. This is a print publication which you can subscribe to by going to our Hands-on English home page.

Reading activity:

Taking part in the Olympic torch relay

Here is a story for your students about the torch relay, which is currently bringing the Olympic flame to Sydney, Australia. It is the longest such relay in history, and of course comes with plenty of hype and hoopla! As the torch passes through the countryside, towns and cities, there are plenty of stories in the Australian news each day about the people selected to carry the torch and the celebrations in each community. We found these fun to read--you can look at the Sydney Morning Herald's website at http://www.smh.com.au/olympics/torchrelay/ to find lots of these short reports.

The official website for the Sydney Olympics also has some interesting things about the torch relay, including maps of each day's route. You can see this at http://www.olympics.com/eng/about/torch/index.html (this site loads slowly for us--perhaps it gets a lot of traffic.)

It is interesting to note the effect that this torch relay seems to have on people. Cynics will scoff that the torch is just 'an overgrown cigarette lighter,' yet when it arrives in their own town they nonetheless find tears coming to their eyes. And one former Olympic athlete who carried the torch for a leg told the press it was a bigger thrill for him even than participating in the sporting events themselves! The daily celebrations along the route are also a great opportunity for each community, no matter how small, to get some publicity and highlight their local attractions.

Doing this activity

Talk with your students about the Olympics first, to find out what they remember about the Olympic flame from previous years. Then read the following story together. A discussion activity is provided in order to help your students practice using the terms "participate" and "take part." For speaking practice, you can have your students play the role of torchbearers who give interviews to reporters about this event.

Finally, we've included at the end a quote from the Olympic creed for you and your students to think about and discuss.

The torch relay

Before the Olympic games, a fire is started in Greece. Greece was the first home of the Olympics, so this fire is the 'mother flame'. The flame is carried to wherever the games will be held. The flame burns there until the games are finished.

This year, the summer Olympic games will be held in Sydney, Australia. Many weeks ago, people started travelling with the flame. The flame will travel one thousand days across Australia, until it reaches Sydney on September 15th.

Runners light a torch with the flame, then they run about one kilometer. They light another torch, and the next person runs with it. They keep passing the flame to the next person, until the flame comes all the way around Australia. To do this, 11,000 people will take part!

Each town or community has selected a few people to carry the flame. Sometimes these are Olympic athletes, or former athletes. Sometimes they are famous people. Sometimes they are ordinary people, but they did something the community is proud of. As each person carries the torch, crowds of people come to watch and cheer.

One man who carried the torch is 109 years old. Thousands of people cheered when he brought the flame into their town. "It's very exciting," he said.

Only a few strong athletes from each country will play in the Olympic games. But, everyone who sees the flame or carries the torch is also taking part in the Olympics. Later, when people watch the games on TV, they will feel proud because they helped bring the flame to this event.

That is the spirit of the Olympics.


participate, take part--These two mean the same thing. For example: His father participated in the 1956 Olympics. His father took part in the 1956 Olympics.

Vocabulary practice

Talk about how each of these groups participates (or takes part) in the Olympics:

the athletes
the sports fans
the torch bearers
the citizens of Australia
the television reporters
the coaches and trainers
the advertisers
the rest of the people in the world


Even if you don't know the answers, take a guess and talk about these questions:

• How many athletes will participate in the Olympic games? (Take a guess.)
• How many people will attend the games in Sydney? (Take a guess.)
• How many people will participate in carrying the flame? (Take a guess.)
• How many people will watch the events on TV? (Take a guess.)


Speaking activity:

You have been selected to carry the Olympic torch in your community. What will you say to the television reporters?

(One student is the torchbearer; one or more students are the reporters who ask questions.)


(These questions were suggested by Tiffany Mathias)
Who is your favorite athlete?
Have you ever been to an Olympic game?
Have you ever met an Olympic athlete?


Further discussion

Here is a quote from the Olympic creed:

"The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win but to take part."

Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not? Do you think it is true for most of the athletes?

Editor's note: I'd be very interested to hear what you and your students thought of this activity! Thank you! We welcome teaching suggestions.--Anna Silliman.


Do you subscribe to Hands-on English?

Our July/August 2000 issue has several more activities for ESL about the summer Olympics: a multi-level dictation, a multi-level crossword puzzle, and a mini-Olympics you can hold in your classroom, as well as other ESL activities.

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