Cover image: Sochi 2014

Sochi 2014

The Winter Olympics in Sochi run from 7-23 February 2014, followed by the Paralympics which run from 7-16 March. Here we provide a few ideas to help you explore these events in class. We start off by having a think about opening ceremonies as a way to highlight a country's culture and achievements. We examine why this is the first Winter Olympics to include women's ski jumping. And we explore the controversy surrounding the Sochi games and what actions can be taken.

Opening ceremonies - comparing cultures

The links in the table below take you to film clips and photos from the past few Olympic opening ceremonies (summer and winter). You could split the class into groups to discuss:
  • What aspects of the country's culture did the ceremonies focus on?
  • Was anything important missed out?
  • What would they feature if they had to organise a ceremony?
  • How easy is it be to be 'objective' about your own country's ceremony?
Sochi 2014 London 2012 Vancouver 2010 Beijing 2008
Sochi 2014 Opening ceremony photos from The Atlantic In Focus London 2012 Opening ceremony photos from The Atlantic In Focus Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony photos from the Boston Globe Big Picture Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony photos from The Guardian
Sochi 2014 Opening ceremony brief film clip from the BBC website London 2012 opening ceremony highlights on YouTube Vancouver 2010 opening ceremony highlights on YouTube (start at about 2min in) Beijing 2008 opening ceremony highlights on YouTube

Waiting 90 years to jump

The Sochi Games are the first ever Winter Olympics to include women's ski jumping. (Men's ski jumping has been an Olynmpic sport since 1924.) Various reasons have been given for this exclusion of the sport - do your pupils think any of these are valid? This BBC News page has a short film clip which tells the story of the campaign to have the sport included: Women's long fight to have Olympic ski jumping at Sochi It's interesting that women's reproductive organs are often cited as a reason for them not to participate in sport. This has been going on since at least Victorian times. And ovaries have also been given as a reason why women should not drive. What do your pupils think about this?

To boycott... or not to boycott?

There were calls to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics due to a law being passed in Russia (in June 2013) which makes it illegal to "promote homosexuality". Human rights campaigners say that, in effect, this makes it a crime to be openly gay in Russia, and thus denies lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people the right to 'be themselves'. How does this legislation compare to other countries? The BBC has a useful feature which shows worldwide Where is it illegal to be gay? including a legislation timeline dating right back to 1789. The campaigning and lobbying organisation Stonewall does not support a boycott. It is working long-term with partners in Russia and is also encouraging the UK government to put pressure on the Russian government. You can read more in their briefing, downloadable from their website. See also their education for all pages. An opinion piece, Why I believe we should boycott Sochi, by Kristopher Wells from the University of Alberta, is available on the TES Resources website (you will need to register to download it). The Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, a US-based organisation, has a useful lesson plan. that can be adapted for UK students: Russia's anti-gay laws & the 2014 olympics - how to respond? Another useful resource from the Morningside Center is The Olympics' history of controversy - which explores how politics and the Olympics have often gone hand-in-hand. What other ways, apart from boycotting the games, can your pupils come up with to protest against the actions of a country's government? The school news website The Day has an interesting article: Russia slammed for Winter Olympics chaos - this includes useful links and activity ideas. It also explores the fact that, costing £31 billion, the Sochi Winter Olympics are the most expensive Olympics ever - this is also covered in this BBC article: Has the Olympic Games become too big and expensive?

More useful links

February is LGBT history month Guardian Teacher Network: Teaching Sochi 2014 news and resources round-up Encyclopaedia Britannica: Origins of the Olympic Winter Games The photo at the top of the page features part of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony; it is by KOREA.NET on Flickr and used under a Creative Commons Licence.