THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE OLYMPICS
BY: Charles Bowman,
Tipton High School
Tipton IN, February 1992
Purpose: The purpose of this
lesson is to focus on a current event in which students are understandably
interested--the Winter and Summer Olympic Games. Students will plot
both Summer and Winter Olympic sites since 1896 (the "where" question of
geography) and will, then, analyze the pattern of dots created (the "why"
question of geography).
Teaching Level: grades 7-12.
The geographic themes emphasized in this
lesson are location and place.
At the conclusion of this lesson, students
plotted both Winter and Summer Olympic sites
on a world map,
analyzed data from a chart that lists where
the Olympics have been held,
analyzed the pattern created by their maps,
evaluated the possibility of Indianapolis
holding the Summer Olympic games in the future.
- World map for each student
- Handout of The Geography of the Olympics
activity for each student
- Student atlas for each student or each
group of students
- Classroom atlases for more detailed
analysis (the National Geograhic
Atlas of the World, for example)
1. Ask the students, "How many of
you have watched the television coverage of the Winter Olympics?";
"Where was it held?"; "Why was it held in Albertville?". Accept
any answers at this point to encourage discussion.
2. Explain to the students about
the purpose and objectives of this lesson.
3. Distribute the handout to the
students. They may work in small groups if they wish. Have
the students use student atlases for larger cities
and more detailed atlases for smaller
cities, specifically, Winter Olympic sites.
4. Upon completion of the mapping
exercise, the students will answer the twelve questions and the critical
thinking scenario (which may be done for homework since the entire lesson
will take 2 days).
5. Have a class discussion based
upon the questions and the critical thinking scenario.
Collect the handouts for the purpose of
Have the student or groups of students research
in news magazines about how Atlanta was able to get the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Would Athens have been a sentimental favorite? Why? What advantages
did Atlanta have?
Choose a group of students to represent the
International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.). Another group of
students will be asked to represent Indianapolis, and through a simulated
presentation in front of the I.O.C., the Indianapolis representatives will
have to present why Indianapolis should be the site of a Summer Olympic
games. Additional research would be necessary, so, statistics, maps, photographs,
..., could be used to encourage the favor of the I.O.C.
Use a map of Europe to plot Olympic sites
on this continent alone.
The idea for this lesson was conceived
from a lesson previously developed by Beth Steinert of Madison, Indiana.
Answers to the Handout
1. France, 1924; USA, 1932;
2. World War I, 1916; World
War II, 1940 and 1944.
3. Europe, North America, Australia,
4. Africa, South America, Antarctica.
5. Answers will vary, but the following
are a few examples: Climate is too harsh in Antarctica (ice and bitterly
cold temperatures), much of Africa (desert and tropical conditions), regions
of South America (tropical conditions); Governments are too unstable
in portions of South America and Africa, so, security might be a problem
for the athletes and officials; Developing nations could not afford
to host an Olympics due to the high expense involved; Fewer nations
in Africa and South America actually participate in the Olympic games;
More people and land are in the Northern hemisphere than in the Southern
hemisphere, which is less accessable.
6. Europe has a wide range of climates
in a relatively small land area, a high concentration of people, and is
7. USA has hosted 6; France
has hosted 5.
8. Only one, Melbourne, Australia;
Fewer people live in Australia, and it is relatively isolated geographically
(you might tell students that fewer nations participated in the '56 Olympics
than in 1952 due to the isolation factor); The reverse of seasons
creates a physiologic problem for many athletes (The Summer Olympics were
held in Nov/Dec in 1956, which is at the beginning of the Southern hemisphere's
summer; Many athletes from the Northern hemisphere had to train differently
so they could reach their peak in their winter months).
9. Only one, Mexico City.
The climate is too muggy and oppressive in the tropics for athletes to
compete safely. It is interesting to note that Mexico City's high
altitude (almost 8,000 feet above sea level) moderates the tropical conditions
to an extent.
10. Between 40-60 degrees north latitude;
temperate climates where snow occurs in the winter is necessary.
11. Mountains (to hold outdoor events
like skiing, bobsled, and luge). Specific names of landforms are:
Sierra Nevada (Squaw Valley, now renamed Olympic Valley), Rockies (Calgary),
Adirondacks (Lake Placid), Alps (several sites in Europe including the
Dinaric Alps in Yugoslavia), Japanese Alps (Japan), and Kjolens (Norway).
12. Their winter is during our summer
so that the athletes from the Northern hemisphere would have to be prepared
to compete at a different time of the year. Also, there is very little
land in the Southern hemisphere in the middle latitudes where conditions
create snow during the winter months.
the Olympic Worksheet