by Susan Flynn
All eyes are on London this month as the world tunes in to watch the 2012 Summer Olympics. Besides serving as a spectacular sporting event, the competition offers parents a springboard (diving pun intended) to talk about topics such as sportsmanship, grace under pressure, dedication and even geography.
Hold an Olympic Viewing Party
Don’t just watch the Olympics on TV alone – turn the event into a viewing party for friends and family. Serve Olympic-themed appetizers, hand out mini American flags, play the Star Spangled Banner, and set up multiple televisions to view multiple events at once.
Try these active ways to engage in the Olympics:
Organize a few backyard games. Badminton or hurdles anyone? Your winners can get gold, silver or bronze medals (made from colored paper, cardboard, or even cookies!)
Ask your kids to each select a country to cheer for (besides the U.S.A.) Learn a few fun facts about the country – and serve some of its native foods while watching the competitions. Use the TV and online results to keep track of the country’s medals and award a prize to the child whose country earns the most.
Introduce kids to lesser-known Olympic sports – like fencing, water polo, archery or slalom kayak. Athlete Caroline Queen, who hopped in a kayak at summer camp when she was just 9, is now a slalom kayaker for Team USA. Who says you have to commit to a sport in preschool?
Forget about baseball cards. Topps has a new line of Olympic athlete trading cards for kids to collect. Some of the notables included are Lolo Jones (track and field), Michael Phelps (swimming), Hope Solo (soccer) and Jordyn Wieber (gymnastics). Visit www.topps.com to find a local retailer.
Two Local Olympians to Root For
Shalane Flanagan won plenty of races back at Marblehead High School where she excelled in cross country and track. Now, the whole world will watch the 32-year-old compete for gold in the Olympic Marathon in London on Aug. 5.
Flanagan won a bronze metal in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and has since switched gears to compete in longer distances. In her debut marathon, in New York City last November, she finished second.
If you miss her at the Olympics, be sure to cheer on this hometown favorite when she competes in the Boston Marathon come April.
Needham resident Alexandra Raisman will compete in London as a member of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team. The 17-year old, who attended Needham High School and is known as Aly to her friends, trained at Newton’s Exxcel Gymnastics and Climbing until age 10 and then at Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club in Burlington.
Did You Know?
The last Olympic gold medals actually made entirely out of gold were awarded in 1912.
Badminton, table tennis and handball are the only sports in which the U.S. has never won a medal.
The continents of Africa and South America have never held an Olympic Games even though they represent two of the five rings in the Olympic logo. This will change in 2016 when the Summer Olympics are held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Susan Flynn is associate editor of the Boston Parents Paper.