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Olympic ideals in physical education – Level 7

Intended outcomes

Students will:

  • identify and analyse the beliefs, attitudes, and practices that underpin the media's reports on a selected Olympic Games incident (7C2)
  • analyse ways in which the media reports could have shaped people's views about the incident (7C2)
  • critically analyse and evaluate the impact that the incident had on society and on individual people as members of society (8C2)
  • critically analyse this incident in relation to the philosophy of Olympism, considering the issues both from their personal viewpoint and at a wider social level (8C2)

Key areas of learning

  • Sport studies

Links to NCEA achievement standard

These activities will help to prepare students for assessment against the following NCEA achievement standard:

Teachers' notes

As part of their work towards the achievement standards, students could take action to promote the Olympic ideals – or sports ethics in general – in physical activity settings within, and possibly beyond, their school.

Background information

These activities enable students to build on any previous learning about the Olympic ideals in physical education in years 9–10. For example, students can work through any of the activities in Attitudes and Values: Olympic Ideals in Physical Education in The Curriculum in Action series or use The Olympic Games Experience Kit, a resource kit that was distributed to all secondary schools by the New Zealand Olympic Committee in 2002.

While these activities focus on the Olympic ideals in physical education, you and your students may select any other event or festival involving physical activity or sport that highlights the importance of attitudes and values in sport, such as the America's Cup, dragon boat racing, waka ama competitions, the World Cup Sevens, or the World Netball Championships. You may find the general format of the activities in this learning experience to be a useful model.


Useful printed resources for these activities include the following:

Useful online resources for these activities include the following:

Information on the Olympic movement

Both the Olympic Movement and the key area of learning Sport Studies (in Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (1999)) support "learning through sport" as a valid teaching and learning approach for helping students to develop constructive attitudes and values. In the context of the Olympic movement, Olympism (based on the Olympic ideals) is a "learning through sport" approach.

The following provides quotations about the following fundamentals of Olympic movement:

  • Olympism (Olympic Ideals)
  • Goal of the Olympic Movement
  • The Olympic Truce
  • The Olympic Creed

PDF icon. Olympic fundamentals handout (PDF, 54 KB)


There are two phases to this activity.

Phase 1: A mini-Olympics experience

Share the learning goals with your students and establish success criteria.

Explain to students that this learning activity has two key phases.

In this first phase, they organise and take part in a 'mini-Olympics' experience – re-enacting some of the events of past Olympic Games. Students, working individually or in groups, adopt a specific country and investigate its sports and cultural practices. They also explore the attitudes and values of the curriculum (which correspond to the universal ethics of Olympism) and critically analyse these attitudes and values. In addition, they could investigate the historical background of their adopted country's sports and cultural practices and find out how these have developed over time. These activities are intended to ignite students' enthusiasm, immerse them in the content and experience of Olympism, and act as a springboard for the second phase of the activity.

Phase 2: Olympic incidents

In this second phase, students select an Olympic incident and re-enact it, which could include relevant parts or all of the physical activity or sporting event in which the incident occurred.

In order to discuss the media's responses to the incident, students either carry out their own research or are provided with copies of the media reports or a brief written summary on how the media reported the details leading up to, during, and after the event. Discuss with them possible reasons why the incident was significant for the individuals involved, for other people, and for society.

Teachers' note

A rationale for the use of re-enactment (role playing) can be found in Attitudes and Values: Olympic Ideals in Physical Education, page 20.

Accounts of five Olympics incidents that students could use are given in the following handouts.

Olympics incidents handouts: Click on the following links to open each handout,

PDF icon. Incident 1 - The United States boycott (PDF, 64 KB)

PDF icon. Incident 2 - Zola Budd and Mary Decker (PDF, 5 KB)

PDF icon. Incident 3 - Ben Johnson (PDF, 6 KB)

PDF icon. Incident 4 - Tommy Smith and John Carlos (PDF, 6 KB)

PDF icon. Incident 5 - The 10 000 metre final (PDF, 5 KB)

When they re-enact their chosen incident, students could:

  • recreate the necessary traditional rituals (for example, by warming up and going through their psychological training routines)
  • identify themselves as belonging to a particular country by wearing the country's uniform or carrying their country's flag
  • actually complete the physical event

When preparing for their re-enactment, each group of students should plan to:

  • clearly identify the Olympic incident that they have chosen
  • make it clear when and where this incident took place
  • introduce the main characters involved in the incident and show what they did and how they behaved
  • write a brief summary of the details of the incident (before, during, and after) as reported by the news media
  • discuss, as a group, the reasons why this incident was significant to the individuals concerned, to other people, and to society

When they have performed their re-enactment, students go on to identify and critically analyse the social, political, scientific, or ethical messages, assumptions, or behaviours that were highlighted by the incident and the media's responses to it. Their analysis could focus on the following questions and instructions.

  • Suggest reasons why this incident might have occurred
  • What are your personal beliefs about why this incident occurred?
  • How did you reach these beliefs, and what evidence have you to support them?
  • What information is missing from what you know? Why do you think this information is missing?
  • Suggest ways in which this incident might have affected people at the time
  • How was this Olympic incident related to other events that occurred or issues that arose in the wider social context at the time?
  • Identify individuals or groups of people who were advantaged by this incident and explain what they gained
  • Identify individuals or groups of people who were disadvantaged because of this incident and explain what they lost
  • What problem occurred as a result of this incident? Did it result in conflict between people who benefited and people who were disadvantaged?
  • What changes occurred as a result of this situation?

Students could use the following questions to help them analyse the issues in more depth and synthesise them meaningfully.
Consider this incident in relation to the goal of the Olympic movement – did the actions of the people involved reflect the goal, or did they contradict it? Explain your response.

  • What aspects of Olympism can be related to this incident? Explain your response
  • What could have been done (by anyone involved) to transform this incident so that it could be used to promote or reflect the goal of the Olympic movement or the various aspects of Olympism?
  • In what ways do the Olympic Games continue to celebrate Olympism? Explain your response
  • How can sport in general better promote the Olympic ideals and help to ensure that the benefits of sport are more widely recognised, accepted, and promoted?
  • What actions could you take to promote sports ethics in your own sports environments?

Teachers' note

Useful reference material for running this activity can be found in: