If you’re like my family and many around the world, you’ll be glued to the TV at all hours, watching the 2012 Olympic Games from London, which start tomorrow and run for 17 sports-filled days. The Olympic Games have been fascinating us since 776 B.C. in ancient Greece, where they were a one-day event featuring running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, equestrian sports, and a martial art called pankration. Five city-states (think Athens and Sparta) competed for the prize, a crown made of olive leaves.
In addition to watching them, here are six other ways to celebrate and enjoy the Olympics.
Learn something about another country
With 204 countries competing in the 2012 Olympics, from Mauritius to Kiribati, there are plenty of countries and cultures to become acquainted with. Try finding some of the more obscure ones on a map or globe.
I’ve long been fascinated with the flags of other countries, and I bet many others are, too. Make a fun flag handprint wreath, using these wonderful flag printables from Activity Village.
There is also no shortage of interesting food you can make from every corner of the globe. This list of food from around the world will certainly get you started. Moroccan, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Japanese food always sound good to me and my family, but we can be convinced to branch out even further, especially during the Olympics.
Celebrate London and England
London, which last hosted the Olympics in 1948, is a fun place to honor. Since we’re always up for celebrating with food, this British food glossary will supply you with traditional comestibles, from Bangers and Mash to the Ploughman’s Lunch.
You also can’t go wrong serving tea (or juice) with simple scones. Even though “high tea” seems very fancy today, the first high teas were actually meals of meats and cheeses served with tea to Industrial Revolution-era workers who sat to eat at high tables.
London, of course, is quite rich culturally. I love this fun double-decker bus made from a cardboard box, courtesy of Entertaining Monsters.
England has also provided the world with a lot of wonderful music. If you haven’t introduced your kids to The Beatles yet, now is the time. Start anywhere in the song catalog and work your way around. Lots of kids love Abbey Road, Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Rubber Soul is a can’t-miss classic. The earliest songs are great to dance to and the latest ones are fascinating for older kids. Speaking of dancing, British '80s new wave music is sure to get toes tapping and heads bobbing.
Get inspired to achieve your dreams and be a good sport
Most people can’t help but be inspired by watching Olympic athletes — indeed, that’s a large part of the fascination of the games. Just about every Olympic athlete sacrificed something to get to the top of his or her sport. While all great athletes show tremendous dedication, discipline, and ability, some have overcome more setbacks than others. (See the Monitor's coverage of eight such athletes.)
The Olympics can inspire you to be active and healthy, and also to achieve your dreams. While urging you to do your best in any endeavor, they can also teach good sportsmanship — as they invariably demonstrate that achievement often comes with disappointment. Sometimes, no matter what your training and background, it’s not your day to win. The best athletes know how to lose with grace, too. “The most important thing is .. not to win but to take part,” reads part of the Olympic Creed.
Get active with a Backyard Olympics
So you don’t have a balance beam or a javelin handy? You can still create your own version of the Games with a Backyard Olympics. Ucreate offers lots of ideas for Olympic-inspired games and activities that are fun and easy to pull off. And Fiskars provides more Backyard Olympics game ideas, as well as fun decorations and accessories, such as homemade Olympic torches and flag banners. (See more craft ideas for your Backyard Olympics, below.)
Get active in your community
Rather get active in your community? First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move organization has declared Saturday, July 28 Olympic Fun Day. Follow the link to find lots of ideas for fun Olympic-inspired games and meet-ups with others in your area.
Make Olympic crafts
You didn’t think we were done with Olympic-inspired crafts, did you? In addition to the ones mentioned above, Sunhats and Wellie Boots offers a tutorial for their version of an Olympic torch craft. And the ribbon wands will make anyone feel like a rhythmic gymnast or, at the very least, an enthusiastic celebrant.
You can also make these cute and clever DIY Olympic gold medals using clay, courtesy of Cindy Hopper from Alphamom.
And, for those who want to get in touch with their inner ancient Greek, this is a fun laurel crown and toga project from Creekside Learning.