Then assign students to watch an Olympic event on TV and describe a dramatic sports moment in detail, paying close attention to word choice, sentence structure and tone.
For fun, you can ask students to remove any references to the actual name of the sport in their descriptions, and then have them read their sports moment aloud. The rest of the class should listen carefully and try to name the Olympic event.
2. Global Politics
In “How South Korea Left the North Behind,” The Times explores how the two countries have diverged in the last 30 years:
In 1988, the last time South Korea hosted the Olympics, North and South Korea were more alike than different, separated by an arbitrary line yet joined by history, language and the bonds of family.
Both Koreas had come a long way, emerging from colonial rule and rebuilding their economies after a devastating civil war.
But the Olympics in Seoul in 1988 ended up being a turning point. Over the past 30 years, the two countries have diverged sharply — economically, politically and culturally.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have sharply escalated recently, with North Korea firing a ballistic missile over Japan and threatening to launch missiles into waters near Guam, and President Trump mocking the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, as “Rocket Man,” and Mr. Kim responding by calling Mr. Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”
But then the Olympics approached, and suddenly the tone seems to have changed. Athletes from North and South Korea will march under one flag; the two countries will field a joint women’s hockey team; and a North Korean pop orchestra will stage performances in South Korea during the Games. Do the 2018 Winter Olympics offer a real chance to ease political and nuclear tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula?
Have students watch the video ”Can the Olympics Bring the Koreas Together?” and read the related article. Then have students argue, in writing or discussion: Will the 2018 Winter Olympics be a turning point in relations between North Korea and South Korea? Are these latest overtures of cooperation and civility the beginning of a new chapter? Can sports actually promote peace? Or is something else going on?
3. Design and Fashion
The Olympics are more than just an athletic competition; they are a fashion runway as well, especially during the opening and closing ceremonies. In her Nov. 2 On the Runway column, Vanessa Friedman wrote in anticipation of this year’s Games:
The 100-day countdown to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, may have just begun, but the race to the fashion finish line among the various teams is well underway.
Thus far, the leader seems to be … sportswear!
That may sound ridiculous, but fashion has become so much a part of recent Olympics (in the same way fashion has attempted to send its tentacles into pretty much every part of designed life), that the out-of-competition clothing that athletes wear, and even some of the in-competition stuff, has increasingly started to seem like basic runway merch. A list of the designer brands that have played wardrobe coach includes Stella McCartney, Giorgio Armani, Lacoste and Prada, to name a few.
But this year, it’s as if, in the weird circular way of fashion, sports clothing, which has been exerting its own influence in ateliers and on catwalks for the last few seasons in the form of streetwear and athleisure, has now effectively changed that game enough so that when designers move to the Olympics, their actual sportswear looks again like sportswear. Roll your eyes if you want to. It’s true.
Have students read the entire column — especially so they can consider how “one of the biggest challenges of designing for the Olympics is balancing national pride and technical needs.” Then, ask students to watch an event at the Olympics, such as the opening ceremony or men’s curling (this 2010 video provides some context), from a fashion critic’s point of view. They should choose one country’s outfits — perhaps their favorite or the most interesting — and describe the clothing in writing.
Then, assign students to propose a new clothing design for a country, perhaps for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo or the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. They should draw a sketch and write a description.
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Alternatively, they can design a unified Korean team logo for the North Korean and South Korean athletes who will march together under one flag, or a logo for Russian athletes who will compete under a neutral flag as an Olympic AthleteFrom Russia, or OAR. They can submit their designs to The Times by Feb. 9, and some designs may get published.
Over 90 countries are taking part in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and that means students can explore geography while watching their favorite sports. Have students select a participating country, research that country’s performance in previous Winter Games and keep track of the up-to-date 2018 medal count. They can also read relevant news articles by selecting their country from the pull-down menu on the Pyeongchang 2018 Game News page. For additional context, students could research their country’s history, culture and geography and how they might affect its performance in the Winter Games. At the end of the Olympics, students can present an overview of their country’s performance at the Games and what they learned.
To turn this research into a competition with other students around the world, the class can participate in Fan School’s Olympics challenge. For this challenge, students must make predictions by the end of the opening ceremony on Feb. 9 about medal counts as well as news coverage in The Times. To help make their predictions, students can use this interactive displaying medal results at the Winter Games from 1924 to 2014.
Have students use the language of physics to describe what is taking place in various Olympic events. To help them deconstruct athletic feats like the quadruple jump in figure skating or the backside double-cork 1080 in snowboard slopestyle, students can use Times interactives that slow down and narrate the action in the following sports:
Figure skating (augmented reality)
Ice hockey (augmented reality)
Short-track speedskating and Short track (augmented reality)
Snowboard slopestyle and Slopestyle (augmented reality)
Make sure they use relevant academic vocabulary they have studied in class, such as kinetic energy, angular momentum, friction and aerodynamics.
To continue exploring physics, visit our 2010 lesson plan “Getting Physical: The Physics and Other Science Behind Winter Olympic Sports.”
6. Argument Writing and Discussion
Any event that brings together delegations from over 90 countries for two weeks is bound to stir up some controversies and questions. Teachers can use these issues as prompts for argument writing and discussion before, during and after the Olympics. Each prompt includes a link to a related Times article. Note: The list below is just a starting place, since certainly more issues will arise before the Games are completed.
1. Did the International Olympic Committee make the right decision in banning Russia from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics because of state-backed doping during the 2014 Sochi Games? Did it make the right decision in allowing Russian athletes who can prove they are “clean” to compete under a neutral flag?
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3. Did North and South Korean politicians make the right decision in deciding to field a joint women’s hockey team for the sake of “a grand gesture of sports diplomacy”? Is the decision unfair to the individual players who have worked hard to get to the Olympics, yet might lose playing time or be benched for some games?
4. How anxious should the world be about holding the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, “in the shadow of a nuclear standoff” and just 50 miles from the world’s most heavily fortified border? Should participating countries hesitate to send their delegations because of North Korea’s recent nuclear and ICBM tests? Should visitors be reluctant to attend the Games this year?
7. South Korea
Ask students: How much do you know about South Korea? They can do a quick-write and pair-share.
Then, have them take our Country of the Week quiz, which tests students on their map skills, along with their geography and culture knowledge.
Next, invite students to plan a last-minute trip to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang. They can use this Times guide to figure out logistics for a visit to the Olympics. And have them tack on extra vacation time after the Games to experience more of South Korea. They can use the Times Travel section, the internet and guidebooks to do their planning.
The final product can be a written day-by-day itinerary, including location, activities and highlights, plus a travel map. Here’s an example of a possible entry:
Location: Busan, South Korea
Activities: Jagalchi market, Busan Sea Life Aquarium, Dongbaekseom Park and Haeundae Beach
Day’s Highlight: Wander the stalls and fish tanks at the Jagalchi market to see rows and rows of seafood caught fresh that morning. Buy a fish, then head upstairs to one of the small restaurants to have it cooked — and eat it with chopsticks!
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