I’ve loved the Olympics since 1984, when with little-girl wonder I watched Mary Lou Retton land that perfect-10 vault to win the gold medal. Seeing that one dream come true sent my imagination soaring, leading to a head full of dreams and five years of competitive gymnastics. And also a broken bay window.
Though I didn’t go far in my Olympic pursuits, my enthusiasm for the Games was not diminished. I still sit on the edge of my couch cushion to catch every possible minute. I love the heightened emotion that surrounds the global collision of competition and culture. I’m inspired by the stories of athletes who struggle through poverty or injury to become champions. “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” gives me goosebumps every time.
My family and I will be celebrating the 2012 Olympics in various ways, and I’m going to pass along some of our ideas in case you and your little champions would enjoy a change of pace and an excuse for a party. Some ideas will suit your family better than others, so pick as few or as many as you like and adapt them however you wish. Our suggestions are just a springboard for ideas as bright and boundless as your own creativity. Take them like a relay baton and run.
Opening Ceremonies: Friday, July 27
Until the Beijing Olympics in 2008, I paid little mind to the Opening Ceremonies. But China set a new precedent for the opening bash with a mind-blowing and thoroughly beautiful display of art, athleticism, and culture. I was so impressed by it that this year we’re planning a whole party around the Opening Ceremonies (no pressure, London).
Whether you invite the neighborhood or just enjoy the show with your family, here are some suggestions you can tailor to your group for a fun viewing party.
A good way to whet everyone’s appetite for the Games is to relive inspiring moments from Olympics past.
1. While waiting for the Opening Ceremonies to begin, regale the group with these stories and let the kids act them out.
2. Give your goosebumps a test run by watching these thrilling Olympic moments before the show or during commercial breaks.
Crafts & History (shhh!)
Kids love making stuff, and all that relatively quiet and still time around the craft table also allows you to sneak a little history into their heads if you’re so inclined.
You can color flags for participating countries ahead of time and learn a few basic facts about each one. Then help your kids spot the athletes from those countries during the Opening Ceremonies’ Parade of Nations, and wave those flags! (Mount them on drinking straws for improved waveability.)
Let your kids help you decorate for the party by making the crafts below in advance, or make craft time part of your party. Gold medals and olive wreaths make great party favors or prizes for games. To save space in this post, I’m linking to instructions for these crafts on my blog. They are all simple enough to be done by preschoolers (of which I have two), or they can easily be adapted for older kids’ skill levels :
4. Olympic flag
The possibilities for games are as numerous as grains of sand on a beach volleyball court. But for starters, I’ve posted a few ideas here for games to mimic different Olympic sports. Even the youngest kidlets can throw the discus, gallop to equestrian glory, and take aim in archery. Don’t forget to have a medal ceremony!
Here’s a good place to include some culture in your celebration. Since the Olympics are in London this year, you could consider some traditional English recipes, such as crumpets or Yorkshire puddings. You might also give a nod to the Greeks with hummus, baklava, or your own favorite Greek recipes. (Note: I am not awesome enough to make my own hummus. I fully intend to buy most of this stuff pre-made, and I will not be even a little bit sorry.)
Here is a recipe for Olympic Rings Fruit Pizza that I do intend to try.
And this article has more great food ideas.
What sticks with me most about the Olympics is not the themed parties or the celebration of culture, though those are great. What I remember long after the games are the stories. Who can forget 1980’s “Miracle on Ice” or the gold-medal-winning vault that injured gymnast Kerri Strug landed on one leg in 1996?
And it’s not just the stories of victory that captivate us. Some of the most powerful moments of the Games are the stories of tremendous courage and perseverance in the face of heartbreaking loss. Remember sprinter Derek Redmond in Barcelona? If not, get thee to YouTube and taketh a Kleenex with you.
Here are some ways to enjoy the Olympic stories with your kids. More ideas will follow in next week’s post.
1. Let your kids choose an athlete or team to follow and cheer for like maniacs throughout the Olympics. You can go here to learn about the athletes in their favorite sport. Some stories that piqued our interest:
- The first Saudi women to compete in the Olympics
- A brother and sister Taekwondo duo, Steven and Diana Lopez
- A double-amputee sprinter, South African Oscar Pistorius
More to Come
Next week, look for a follow-up post with more activities and thoughts about the Olympics. In the meantime, keep on running the race. We’re cheering for you.
- Dear Daughter: On Outrage and its Remedy - June 20, 2022
- Rodents, Romans, and Chiaroscuro:Why We Love The Tale of Despereaux - August 28, 2019
- Rodents, Romans, and Chiaroscuro:Why We Love The Tale of Despereaux - November 15, 2017
Lori M. says
Great ideas! But are you sure about the opening ceremony time? Here in Ontario, Canada, it’s scheduled to start at 4 p.m. EDT, but maybe that’s live and your coverage is taped.
Alyssa Ramsey says
Hmm, I don’t know if it’s a US/Canada difference or if it varies in every time zone. So I’ll take that detail out. Thanks for the heads up!
S.D. Smith says
We are stoked. Thanks for this great piece, Alyssa. The event we’re probably most interested in is the women’s soccer. We all enjoyed watching the US team fall just short in their thrilling World Cup run (so close!) and are eager to see them take the gold. Here’s a printout if anyone wants to follow along for that event. http://www.ussoccer.com/Community/Downloads/Brackets.aspx Their first game is actually ahead of the opening ceremonies, at 12pm Wednesday (tomorrow). Thanks again, Alyssa.
Carl Clark says
I’ve always loved following the Olympics, and find it a great family event. I’d like to add to the list of athletes to cheer for. As an Iowa Stater we’re pretty pumped to cheer for Guor Marial who was an All-American Cross Country runner at ISU. He will be running the marathon, but will be competing under the Olympic flag since the newly formed South Sudan has no Olympic sanctioning body. Below is an excerpt from the Chicago Tribune chronicling Guor Marial’s amazing story:
“He was kidnapped at gunpoint when he was 8 years old and taken to a labor camp. He escaped imprisonment by running away with another child under the cover of night, hiding in a cave from his captors before returning to his family. Only he was kidnapped again and forced to work unpaid for a year by a Sudanese soldier’s family. Marial says 28 members of his family died from violence and disease during the unrest. He was finally able to seek refuge in Egypt before making his way to the U.S., where he was granted asylum when he was a teenager.
And now, Marial, who was cajoled into running cross-country and track at his high school in New Hampshire, will participate in the London Games as one of four people competing under the Olympic flag. The other three are from Netherlands Antilles.
Marial, now 28 and working to become a U.S. citizen, would rather compete for the newly independent state of South Sudan, but the fledgling country has no sanctioning body for sports. Sudan offered him a spot on its Olympic team but Marial passed.”
Beverly Ramsey says
Great job, Alyssa!