What Are the Modern Olympic Games?

Grade Levels: 3 - 5


  • Students will learn about the history of the Modern Olympic Games
  • Students will plot the locations of all of the Olympic sites on a world map.


  • Olympic History Overview
  • One copy of a world map for each student.
  • Hatpins
  • Flag shaped pieces of paper small enough to tape to the hatpins
  • Transparent tape


  1. Share the following overview of Olympic history with your students.
  2. Olympic History

    The early Olympic Games (from 776 B.C. until 393 A.D.) were celebrated as a religious festival honoring the Greek god Zeus. The games were eventually banned in ancient Greece for being a pagan festival and the Olympic tradition died temporarily at that point. However, a French educator named Baron Pierre de Coubertin, decided that he wanted to start a program that taught people to balance the development of both their minds and their bodies. In 1892 he brought his idea in front of the Union des Sport Athletiques in Paris and proposed a revival of the ancient tradition. Thus the modern-day Olympic Summer Games were born. Pierre de Coubertin created a sports congress to help him plan the Games and it included representatives from the United States, Russia, Belgium, France, Britain, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Pierre de Coubertin originally wanted the event to take place in France but he was convinced by the countries participating in the council to hold the first Modern Olympics in Greece because that was where the tradition started. After that the Olympics would move to a different city every four years. The first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896 with athletes competing in nine sports events: cycling, fencing, gymnastics, lawn tennis, shooting, swimming, track and field, weight lifting, and wrestling. The Games were successful and in 1924 a Winter Olympics was added to the schedule. It was to take place in a separate, colder, location in the same year as the summer events. In 1996 the Atlanta Games were the largest ever, with a record 197 nations competing.

  3. Have a class discussion by asking students the following question:
    • Do you agree with Baron Pierre de Coubertin's opinion that it is important to balance the growth of your mind and body? What kinds of things do people do to create this balance?
    • Why do you think it was important for the first modern Olympics to take place in Athens, Greece?
    • Why do you think it is important for the Olympics to move to a different city every four years?
    • Often world leaders will comment about how important the Olympic Games are to world peace. Why do you think that might be?

  4. Using Olympic Locations Through the Years have students write each place and date on one of the flag-shaped pieces of paper and tape it to a hatpin. Afterward, have students locate the various cities on a world map and mark the city with the appropriate hatpin.

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