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Commonwealth Games welcome

Fireworks light up the sky as performers dance underneath the aerostat during the XIX Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on October 3 2010

In July 2014 tens of thousands of visitors travelled to Glasgow to see thousands of elite athletes from 71 Commonwealth nations and territories compete in the 20th Commonwealth Games.

What is the connection between these games and asylum-seekers and refugees? The answer is all in the welcome. 

Learning objectives

By the end of the activities young people will be able to:

  • explain in their own words what they understand by a welcome, and describe a time when they themselves felt welcome.
  • identify a range of different feelings and reactions they and their peers may have to new and unfamiliar situations.
  • suggest ways that the welcome to a place they know might be improved.
  • identify several ways in which a visitor to the country or a young refugee could be helped by the friendliness of local people.


Lesson starters

For a lesson starter, or a quick exploration in tutor time, choose from the following quick activities.

What is a welcome?

What is a welcome? Ask students to express what they think in their own words. Complete the sentence: “When you welcome someone you...”

Think of a time when you have felt welcome. List the factors in a welcome that you think are most important. How easy are they to provide?

Now think of a time when you didn’t feel welcome somewhere. Why not? Were the people different? Was it something someone did or said? Or was it something about the atmosphere? 

Opening ceremonies

A major feature of high profile international sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games is the opening ceremony.

Why? What are opening ceremonies all about? Why do the organisers spend so much time and money on getting them right? What do participants and spectators get out of it? What would young people expect from an an opening ceremony?

Spend some time in individual thought on this. Then ask students to work in pairs or small groups and put themselves in the minds of a competitor or international visitor to the games. The group task is to come up with a sentence that describes the impact the opening ceremony might have on them. How do they think, feel or act differently after the ceremony compared with before? 

Share and discuss groups’ contributions. Then ask how the benefits of such ceremonies might be extended to less prestigious or formal events. Freshers’ weeks and events help new arrivals at college or university to get oriented and settled in. What might a new arrivals event for asylum-seekers, refugees or other vulnerable migrants look like? How valuable might it be to those attending?

Agree/disagree debate

Introduce this activity as a walking debate.  Allocate opposite parts of the room as “agree” and “disagree”, with space in the centre for “don’t knows”. 

Encourage students to explain their reasons - for instance, by inviting two people who are far apart to explain their thinking to each other. Invite students to consider whether they want to change their positions after hearing points made during the discussion. Operate the activity quickly and lightly - with the emphasis on fun and sharing ideas. 

You can use, amend or add to the following statements:

  • People are happiest when they’re with other people who are like themselves.
  • It is hard to relax when everything is strange and unfamiliar.
  • Most people like the same sorts of things.
  • Receiving a welcome gift makes people feel better.
  • A smile can help people feel included.
  • It is hard to enter a room full of strangers.
  • You never know what other people are feeling.
  • First impressions matter more than what happens afterwards.
  • When you are on your own in a strange place it is important to have something to look forward to.
  • Sport can bring people together.

Make a note of any topics that interested students or provoked fruitful discussion. Revisit them during later activities. 

Comparing cities

Where and when were the previous Commonwealth Games held? Full marks to whoever says in Delhi in 2010. 
Think about the two cities - Delhi and Glasgow. In what ways are they similar? In what ways might they be different? Focus on the experience of a visitor - an athlete, official, coaching staff, members of the media and spectators. 

During discussion bring out the difference in scale. Delhi has a population of 22 million people whereas Glasgow has slightly more than half a million. What difference does that make? What is the population of students’ locality?

Ask students to research the two cities. What are the similarities and differences? What would they want to know about the cities if they were visiting them for the Games? 

Ask students where they would like to be a stranger - Glasgow, Delhi or their own neighbourhood. What makes somewhere a good place to be a stranger?  


Core activities

Explore deeper and start making connections between different types of welcome.

First impressions

Think of a place that students know well. What might it be like to walk into it for the first time? How are new people welcomed there?

Working in pairs or small groups, ask young people to choose a venue - perhaps the classroom, the school or college, or another place that they are familiar with. Their task is to come up with three changes that would improve the welcome received by a new arrival. 

Say that it is OK to begin the discussion with no limits - as if time, money and other practicalities were not an issue. Then try to scale down the ideas to something that might be achievable - while still keeping the essence of the welcome.

In a plenary share the ideas and invite students to review and critique each other’s suggestions. Identify the most highly rated suggestions - and think how they might be made to happen. 

Different people, different welcome?

If students have already done the first impressions activity, use this as a follow up. 

If not, invite them to think briefly about the kinds of things that make someone feel welcome, particularly at first contact. 

Diamond ranking

Say to young people that they are about to see some “ingredients of a welcome” that hosts, such as those preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, create for their visitors. 

Diamond ranking cards can be found and downloaded here.

The task for the young people is to rank the cards in order of importance from their own perspective. 

  • Signs and notices in your own language
  • Familiar food and drink 
  • Trained and helpful staff and volunteers
  • Something amazing - that wows you and makes you remember it
  • Having a known person to go to for help
  • Happy, smiling, friendly people 
  • Gifts and souvenirs
  • Maps and street plans of the area
  • A drop-in session where you can meet people in the same situation as yourself

Next, ask young people to complete the diamond ranking exercise from the perspective of people in different circumstances:

  1. A visitor to the Commonwealth Games
  2. An athlete competing in the Commonwealth Games
  3. A person newly arrived in a country and hoping to make their home there.

Finish with a general discussion

How easy did students find the task? Do they agree that people’s needs vary according to their circumstances? 

Planners for all kinds of services spend time and energy trying to find out what people want, often by asking them. Why is it important to welcome people as individuals?

International man of mystery

This activity helps young people think about how they might help someone who is lost and speaks little or no English.

Show students the photograph.

Vasile Belea on the London undergroundThis is Vasile Belea, a man who lives in the Romanian countryside. 

Last Christmas he visited London, to stay with his son. But he got lost. For four days he wandered the streets of London trying to find where his son lived.

He had no SIM card in his phone, a little money, and no note of his son's address. He couldn't speak any English. He had no ID.

He couldn't make himself understood. He couldn't even tell people he was lost. But people were very kind to him, he says. He was given food and places to shelter from the cold winter. 

For a simple exploration, focus not on Vasile and what he might have done, but on the local people he might have met. How might they have responded. What would students have done if they had seen Vasile wandering the streets in winter?

Set up a role play - or a series of them. One person plays Vasile, another a local. Vary the situation - a shopkeeper, a school student, another tourist. How can you communicate with someone who, like Vasile, knows no English? 

How do you show that you are friendly and welcoming whilst remaining safe?

After different role plays, create some guidelines for helping others and treating them well, even when you know nothing about them. 

If students want to follow up what happened to Vasile, there are various accounts online, including a first person report from his son and a positive article in London's evening paper.

Quiz: When I arrived I felt…

How might a young refugee feel on arrival in Glasgow? Invite young people to think about it, then introduce the following video:

After the video has been shown, download the quiz for students to answer individually or in pairs. 

Other people

Lamama seems to be very happy to have arrived in Glasgow. Do you think that is mainly because of her own personality and approach - or the way she was treated by other people? 

Write down your own estimate of how much you yourself are affected by other people. 

You're welcome

Lamama says that people were very open and friendly. Think about different ways that she may have been welcomed and supported by those friendly people. 

Write down as many examples as you can think of.

What next?

That interview was filmed more than six years ago. Do you think Lamama will be on her way to achieving her aim? How might things have changed for her in those six years? 

What message would you like to send to her? What would you ask her if you could meet her now? 

Write down your ideas.


This resource was written by PJ White of alt62 and published in April 2014.

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