What are the Olympic Games and when did they start (summer and winter sporting world championships, held every four years, begun in ancient Greece, eighth century BC, revived in 1896)? What happens at them (finest athletes in the world assemble, this time in Sydney, for a month of intensive competition)? Why are gold medals so important (world records can be beaten at any time, world championships won every year, but Olympic gold medal winners have to peak for just one day in four years; silver and bronze medallists and also-rans are soon forgotten)? Which Olympic events do you like and dislike?
Why does competition appeal to athletes and spectators (the surge of adrenalin, power, strength, speed, co-ordination, are all related to survival in the wild, a controlled version of our primitive past)? Does everyone enjoy (a) taking part in (b) watching sporting competitions (ask the class about themselves, their family, friends)?
Why do some athletes take drugs (enhance performance, enable them to train harder, put on more muscle)? What drugs do they take (stimulants to improve performance, anabolic steroids to help increas body bulk)? How can drug taking be stopped (random testing in and out of the season, though "masking agents" can be taken to fool the testers)? What are the negative effects of drugs (medical complications, such as women developing facial hair and deep voice; death from too many stimulants followed by heavy exercise)? Flo-Jo (shown in picture) was suspected of taking drugs to help her win gold and break world 100 metre record, but she never failed a test.
Write an account of two athletes: one who fulfils a lifetime's ambition and becomes an Olympic champion, another who fails to win by a fraction of a second and feels bitterly disappointed.
Winning a gold medal is important, but is winning everything?
For What is the point of sport if you don't try hard to win? There have to be losers, so there can be winners. Playing to win is a noble aim. Stakes are high because successful sports stars can become millionaires. Spectators love the drama of winning and losing. Who would watch "collaborative" football?
Against Taking part is as important as winning. Many people just want to be fit. Too much adulation for winners demeans the millions who never win. People drop out of sport in their thirties, when they could play for decades if winning were less important. Stress on medals leads to cheating. Nationalism is unhealthy.
Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University.