Geography - Winning resource

22nd June 2012 at 01:00

The Games: ancient and modern

Squabbling gods, ancient myths, heroes with humble beginnings and political propaganda are just some of the aspects of Olympic history and legend that are illuminated by these two books.

Who's who?

Who's Who in Olympic History (50 names you need to know) by Charlotte Guillain introduces pupils to some of the most important people associated with the Olympics - from Paralympic champions such as Trischa Zorn and Mustapha Badid to Olympic medal winners like Sir Steve Redgrave - with details of their lives and sporting achievements set down alongside quotes and a timeline mapping their success.

The book also discusses political issues at the Games, including the terrorist attack at the Munich Games in 1972 and Jesse Owens' victory at the Berlin Games in 1936. The Nazi Party's plan to use the games to show the superiority of white German Aryans was derailed when Owens won four gold medals.

Guillain reveals the stories of ancient Greece, such as that of Cynisca, the Spartan princess who managed to get around the rules that banned women from competing. She took part in the horse-riding event on the grounds that the award was given to the horse's owner not the rider.

Olympic beginnings

Helen East's How the Olympics Came to Be also takes pupils back to the world of ancient Greece, exploring the myths and legends of the original Olympics. The book is divided into seven chapters, five representing the five days of the ancient festival, with two final chapters reflecting on restoring peace through the Olympics and the future of the games.

It is presented as a series of stories told by Tethys - grandmother of the gods. She uses her tales to calm the Greek gods as they gather to watch the games, argue as to who is the best competitor and vie for the best view.

This is an accessible and entertaining introduction to ancient Greece for young learners and a great starting point for comparing the ancient and modern games. It was inspired by a storytelling session at the British Museum.

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