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Olympics 2012

Usain Bolt being congratulated by the crowd at the 2008 Beijing Olympics©Reuters/ AlertnetThis lesson plan is made up of a collection of activities exploring aspects of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Come back to this page to find new activities in the months leading up to the event, or sign up for alerts via newsthink.

Getting home after Olympics

Ever been stuck after a day or evening out, unable to get home? It is a common experience for teenagers. Meanwhile, the planners for London's 2012 Olympics know that, despite their strenuous efforts, the transport system may not be able to meet demand for all visitors over the period of the games. Put these two together – and explore what students can do to help themselves get home safely after the Olympics or any similar event.

Missed the tube – now what?

Ask students to imagine this: You're a sports fan. You have had a great day out watching Olympic athletes in London. But it finished late. Now you have an Olympic-sized problem. There's no transport home.

All being well, this won't happen. A lot of effort is going into moving people around London and keeping services running. But there can be no guarantees. Sporting events do not always keep to time. If events overrun and there are delays emptying the stadium, it could be the early hours of the morning before all spectators leave a venue. The tube system cannot run 24-hours a day. In any case, there could be a mechanical failure or incident that shuts down parts of the transport system.

Ask students to imagine that their plan to get home is suddenly in tatters. What are they going to do now?

Invite options. Log each one that students come up with, but then say that, for one reason or another, the option isn't possible. (See suggested reasons why in italics in the list below.) So they need another idea.

  • Walk home. Problem: you sprained your ankle a couple of days ago and walking any distance is really painful.
  • Get a taxi. No chance. You can't afford it. There are thousands of people also hunting very few taxis and you don’t have a safe number for a licensed firm.
  • Call someone to pick you up. Tried that. No one's answering the phone.
  • Stay with a friend. Not possible as you don't know anyone nearby.
  • Sleep where you are, in the stadium, or in a doorway. Security won't allow it. You are getting moved on if you stop.

See how inventive students can be. When you have a list of options and no more are forthcoming, say that the reasons the option wasn't possible no longer exist. The task now is to choose what students think is the best choice.

Ask students to rank the options, sorting the most attractive from the less favoured ones. They should be guided by their own preferences and bear in mind the associated problems. They should think through the risks attached to each option. There may have been unsafe ideas suggested, such as accepting a lift from a stranger. Remind students to prioritise personal safety as they critique the options, and rule out any they deem too dangerous.

Do this in pairs or small groups or for homework, then share results. Is there broad agreement about the best option? Try to identify what any differences depend on – for example, past experience or personal preferences. Discuss the risks identified, particularly personal safety, and students' attitude towards those risks.

Finally, examine the list of options again. For each one ask students to think what they would need to make that option easier to carry out. For instance, if the plan is to call a taxi, it would help to have some form of emergency cash to pay for it and the number of a safe, licensed taxi firm. If students are going to call a relative for a lift, it will make life easier if they have the number in their phone. If they are going to a friend's, do they know the quickest way there? Is there someone who might worry, and appreciate being told what is happening? If so, what is the best way of getting a message to them?

Think and plan before you go: write a checklist of actions that could be taken in advance of an event.

Additional points to consider:

  • Travelling with a friend rather than alone, and sticking with friends once there
  • Taking a map of the tube and other public transport options
  • Putting an “ICE” contact number in your phone – of someone to call in case of emergency
  • Checking the Olympics and Transport for London websites for their travel information before you go
  • What you might need if you are out longer than planned, such as enough water and your normal medication
  • Planning who you will approach for help if you run out of options and feel panicked. Perhaps someone in authority – a police officer, transport police officer, or a steward at the event.

Keep the list so that you can make it part of your preparation. If any are possible, do them now. You might be glad you did.

Note: Although this is focused on the forthcoming 2012 Olympics, it applies equally to any major event students might attend – a festival, a trip out, or any sporting or musical event.

Health in crowds

When you think of the London Olympics does your mind turn to health risks? It does if your job is to plan for the effects of hundreds of thousands of visitors, coughing, spluttering, spreading disease, getting injured, overheating, getting food poisoning and making demands on medical services. Help students to appreciate the planners' headaches and to develop their awareness of what they can do to preserve their own health and well-being in crowds.

Olympic size health risk

Show the photographs, available in a powerpoint, and for each one ask students:

  • What are the health risks at this event?  

Students could work in pairs, in small groups or individually. They could work on all three images, or be split into groups working on just one each. Whatever the approach, students' task is to list all the risks to health and well-being they can think of associated with the event they see and the people gathering to take part.

Before or during the activity, clarify for students what the photographs show:

  • Festival goers dance in front of the Pyramid Stage on the third day of the Glastonbury Festival in June 2011. Tens of thousands of fans gathered. That year there was mud, and rain.
  • Usain Bolt of Jamaica is congratulated by fans after winning the men's 100m final at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The Olympic stadium in London is designed to hold around 80,000 spectators.
  • Pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Mecca, during the annual hajj pilgrimage in November 2010. An estimated 2.5 million people take part each year.

Prompt if necessary with ideas:

  • crush injuries
  • heat stroke
  • fainting
  • dehydration
  • colds and other viral infections
  • effects of drug or alcohol use
  • wasp stings
  • food poisoning

Share the lists with the whole group. Draw attention to those which are common, and those which are more likely to occur in just one of the events.

Provide some background to the exercise by explaining that health experts know that mass gatherings bring health problems that need specialist approaches. For example, with visitors, including athletes and spectators, converging on London for the Olympics and Paralympics from up to 200 countries around the world, the risk of epidemics of infectious diseases, foodborne or waterborne illnesses, accidents and injuries all have to be planned for.

Finish by asking students to imagine they were attending one of the events in the photographs or an equivalent. Their task is to decide one precaution to take to reduce the health risk for them personally. It could be to keep their hands clean, perhaps using an alcohol-based hand gel for convenience. Or it could be a decision to stay out of very dense crowds, or to take their own food and drink and avoid snack stalls and burger vans. Whatever it is, ask each student to think of one, and share it with two others. Test listening by asking students what other people have decided.

Bingo health

Help students explore people's experiences of health, travel and crowds of people. Create bingo-style cards using the descriptions below. Issue them to students with the task of finding people in their networks, friends or family, who fit the description and so "tick the box".

The activity can be used within the class itself, or just as material for a group discussion. Whatever the approach, remind students that part of the point is to listen to people's stories. Don't just get the tick, but stay around to hear the person's account of what it was like and what they would prefer to have been different. When appropriate, they could even ask how it might have been avoided.

Find someone who:

  • has come home ill after a festival, party or big gathering
  • has had food poisoning
  • has needed medical attention when abroad
  • chose to go to a public event even though they had a streaming cold
  • avoids crowds because they don't want to catch anything
  • has been scared of a crush in a big crowd
  • has been ill and been told "there's a lot of it about"

What did students learn from the stories they heard? Has it changed their own view about health in crowds?

Ready for health

When was the Athens Olympics? Marks to anyone who says 2004. Health was an issue back then. Here's an extract from the official report produced jointly with the World Health Organization following the games. Reproduce it and ask students to translate it – that is, to put it into everyday English that is easily understood.

“In general, the most common types of medical problems associated with mass gatherings include dermal and musculoskeletal (such as lacerations, abrasions, bruises, sprains and fractures), gastrointenstinal (such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain) and possible heart problems (such as chest pain, syncope, dizziness and loss of consciousness). Regarding heart problems, the importance of providing defibrillators at sports stadiums has been recognized. Alcohol is believed to increase the casualty rate.”
This could be done individually, or led as a group activity. Alternatively, just select key words and ask students to find out what they mean. For example, what would be a good way of saying the following in non-technical language:

  • dermal
  • lacerations
  • gastrointenstinal
  • abdominal pain
  • defibrillator

Discuss why medics, like other professionals, use their own technical jargon. Is it needed for precise and accurate communication between the experts? Or is it to impress and bamboozle the public?

Having penetrated the mysteries of language, get practical and personal by asking students to think about preparation.

Ask them to select a venue prompted by the photographs – the hajj, the London Olympics, a festival or other large gathering. Imagine they were going. Then they must decide:

  •  What are you taking? What is in your bag that will help you stay healthy? List everything relevant: hand gel, painkillers, any medication you usually have, water bottle…
  • What is in your phone? What numbers are you making sure are in your phone in case you need health-related help? This could be individuals you know personally and trust to give good advice, or NHS direct or other services.

Positively healthy

Planners' focus is on avoiding ill-health and injury. Yet there is, of course, a far more positive health aspect of the Olympics and other mass gatherings.

Can students think of any health benefits that come from the four-yearly mass gatherings of the Olympics and Paralympics?

For instance:

  • The Olympics prompt people to question their inactive lifestyles, with a chance that some will become sportier, more active and healthier.
  • People coming from across the world can share how they and others tackle problems and take back what they learn to their own countries. Coming together spreads health messages.
  • The need to be scrupulous about, for example, food safety in mass catering or cleanliness in swimming pools means methods can be tested, developed and applied more widely.

Ask students to create campaign, a poster or a radio advert for instance, that emphasises the health benefits of the Olympics and Paralympics.


Sporting security

Ground-to-air missiles will be ready for use as defence or deterrent during the 2012 Olympic games in London, the defence secretary Philip Hammond told MPs. The revelation showed how seriously the planners take the security of athletes and spectators.

Ask students for their first reaction to the news of such military defences against attack. Do they feel more secure, more anxious or intrigued? Planners say such defences have been standard in Olympic games since Atlanta in 1996. Talk about the kinds of threats they are in response to. How do students think daily life will be different for Londoners and visitors this summer?

Olympic flame

Fatboy and Billy Mitchell from EastEnders talk in the café© InfoExplain to students, if necessary, that BBC television regularly screens a soap opera known as EastEnders. Watched mainly by those of us who have become too tired to do anything else, its characters often discuss topical issues and current events of the day. Like this:

Watch the EastEnders clip (an audio clip is also available here.)

Download a transcript.

Then try these three activities:

  1. Find out how close the Olympic torch relay is coming to you. Was there any local publicity for the route? Can you summarise the mood of the coverage? Would you like to be a torch bearer? What would you be prepared to do to earn the opportunity? Realistically, which local person would you like to see as torch bearer? Make the case for your preferred candidate, in writing and with reasons. Or hold a balloon debate, with student backers of known individuals, prominent local figures or celebrities arguing their case for the honour. Then the class votes according to the strengths of the arguments. For ideas, see the trailer produced by the Olympic planners.
  2. Discuss the principle of using soap operas to get messages across. What are the advantages of having Fatboy, EastEnders' flashy wheeler-dealer, competing for the "moment to shine"? Are there are any disadvantages? Discuss other examples of education through soaps that you know of. Does it spoil stories, or make them more real? A popular TV drama series in Kenya, Makutano Junction, is being used in some UK classrooms. Students take a survey before and after seeing the soap to see if their understanding of life in Kenya changes. Do you think it would?
  3. For a drama or role play activity, take the format of Fatboy talking to Billy Mitchell in Walford's cafe, and adapt it to a different public education topic. What would you like to make EastEnders' nine million viewers more aware of? Can you devise a short, snappy, realistic and entertaining dialogue lasting 30 seconds that gets a key message across?



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