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 The Olympic Games
The Olympic Games (or simply the “Olympics”) are a major international sporting event of summer
and winter, in which thousands of athletes from across the globe compete for medals, national pride,
and Olympic glory. The biennial event was first held in the 8th century BC in Olympia, Greece, and
continued until the 5th century AD. Then, in the late 19th century (1894, to be exact) the IOC
(International Olympic Committee) was formed, and the modern Olympic games were held once
again; starting in Athens, Greece in 1896. Athletes who take part in the Olympic Games are called
The Olympics were re-established as a symbol of international
cooperation and friendship. The Olympic flag consists of 5 rings, each
symbolizing one of the inhabited continents (North and South America
are counted as one continent). The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius,
Fortius”, which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” In addition, each
Olympics has its own, unique mascot. This mascot represents the
cultural heritage of the host country. It gained particular importance
since the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, where Misha the bear
cub became world-renowned. The mascots of the 2008 Olympics in
Beijing were the Fuwa, five creatures that represent the feng shui
elements important in Chinese culture. At the current 2010 Olympics in
Vancouver, the mascots are based on native mythology: Miga the sea bear, Quatchi the sasquatch,
and Sumi the thunderbird. According the Vancouver organizers, Miga likes surfing and snowboarding,
and lives off the coast of Vancouver Island. Her black costume includes a fin coming out of her
head. Sumi is the Paralympic mascot, and is a horned-hat-wearing thunderbird from Whistler that
likes alpine skiing. Quatchi is the first sasquatch in history to actually make an appearance before
humans. The young sasquatch, complete with blue earmuffs, likes hockey, photography, and travel;
and given his hulking size, dreams of being a goalie. Another tradition is the Olympic Torch
Relay. This is the transfer of the Olympic flame from Ancient Olympia in Greece to the stadium of the
city hosting the current Olympic Games. The flame arrives just in time for the Opening Ceremony. For
the 2010 Vancouver Games, the flame was lit on October 22, 2009, and it traveled from Greece, over
the North Pole to Canada's High Arctic and down the west coast, in time to reach Vancouver during
the Opening Ceremonies on February 22, 2010.
Although the Olympics are a symbol of international cooperation, modern Olympics have also
become a way for athletes to achieve fame and fortune. American swimmer Michael Phelps made
history at the 2008 Beijing Olympics by winning 8 gold medals in one Olympics. He has 16 medals in
total from the 3 Olympics that he has participated in, and is likely to take part in one last Olympics; to
be held in 2012 in London. Only Larissa Latynina, a Soviet gymnast, has more overall medals (18).
• What do the Olympics mean to you?
• Who is your favorite Olympian of all time? Why?
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biennial = [ADJECTIVE] Occurring once every 2 years. [Mongolia is far away and expensive to travel
to from her university in Mexico City, so Margarita only visits her parents there on a biennial basis.]
inhabited = [ADJECTIVE] A place that has people living in it. [Although there are a couple hundred
scientists that live in Antarctica year-round, it is nonetheless not considered inhabited. It is an
uninhabited continent.]
mascot = [NOUN] An animal or human figure representing a team, event, or organization. [The
mascot of the old Charlotte Hornets basketball team was Hugo the Hornet, a kind of bee.]
The Olympic Games have grown in scale to the point that nearly every nation is represented. Such
growth has created numerous challenges, including boycotts, doping, bribery of officials, and
Which of the following Olympic controversies do you know about?
1. 2002 Pairs Figure Skating Scandal (Russian/Canadian pairs)
2. 1936 Olympics – Nazi Party – Jesse Owens
3. Lack of Soviet participation until 1952
4. 2004 Olympics – judo match b/w Iranian and Israeli
5. 1972 Munich Massacre
boycott = A form of protest in which a person or party decides not to take part in an event or
purchase goods from a certain organization. [The boycott of Cuban products by the United States
was enacted to punish the Communist government for human rights abuses.] NOTE: Also a verb --
to boycott (something)
Vadim: I'm so excited to watch the Olympics. What's
the medal count right now for Russia?
Kai: I'm not sure, but earlier the US and Russia
were neck and neck in the medal count. They both
had 12 medals.
Vadim: Russia is going to finish first at these
Olympics. Nobody knows winter like Russians do!
Kai: We'll see. The Scandinavian countries
always rack up the medals in the skiing events. And
don't count out the U.S. team.....we have a lot of
good skaters.
Vadim: Yeah, and you cheat.
Kai: What? How does the American Olympic team cheat?
Vadim: I read all about it on the Internet.....
Kai: Wikipedia, no doubt...then, it must be true.
Vadim: Whatever, let's just watch the next event. What's on tonight?
Kai: Tonight the bobsled competition and the curling competition are being televised.
Vadim: Curling? How boring!
Kai: I agree. Only a Canadian can find such a sport interesting. I wanted to watch the bobsledding,
but after that Georgian's death I think it would be morbid.
Vadim: It's sad, but as long as it's not somebody on the Russian team I'm not going to cry about it.
Kai: Sometimes your level of insensitivity leaves me speechless...
Vadim: Then stop talking and turn up the TV. The next event is about to start!
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medal count = The number of medals that have already been earned at at the Olympics or other
sporting event. [At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, the United States' medal count was 25: 9
gold, 9 silver, and 7 bronze.]
neck and neck = [ADJECTIVE & ADVERB -- no form change!] ADJ: Inconclusive as to the outcome;
so close that the lead between top competitors is difficult to determine. [As they approached the finish
line, the horses were neck and neck – only instant replay would show who won the race.] ADV: Even
or close in a competition or comparison. [The horses ran neck and neck across the finish line, and
only after the instant replay was shown could the winner be determined.]
to rack up (something) = To accumulate or acquire (a lot of something). [Zenit started off really slow
in the first half, and were losing 1-0 to Liverpool. In the second half, though, they racked up 4 points
and defeated the Brits 4-2.]
to count out = HERE: To discount; to exclude; to leave out of consideration. [You all are going to the
Alexander Rybak concert? Hmmm, count me out – I have no interest in that!] ALSO: 1. To apportion
(give out in specific quantities) [I received a total of 150 jars of peanut butter, so I counted out 15 for
Vadim, and I kept the rest for myself.] 2. To recalculate, recount [Whenever Vadim goes to the ATM,
he always counts out the rubles that the machine dispenses.]
morbid = Interested in subjects, such as death, that most people think are unpleasant. [Many
Germans are surprised that tourists wish to see old concentration camps such as Dachau. They
consider such sites inappropriate, and feel that tourists wishing to go there are just morbid people.]
Just Speak!
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