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Lessons and  activities for teaching respect in Olympic education


Lessons and  activities for teaching respect in Olympic education

1. Introduction

Our world today is in need of peace, tolerance and brotherhood. By blending sport with culture and education, the Olympic values can deliver these to us. Sport is more than just competition. It is a state of mind. The challenge of the Olympic Movement is to educate and encourage young people to practise sport, and to teach them values [...] we intend to introduce young people all over the world to the values of respect for self and others, fair play, excellence, joy in effort and the balance of body, mind and will.

Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (2007)

In this quotation by the former IOC President, taken from his foreword in Teaching Olympic Values, the IOC’s educational program, Jacques Rogge refers to the three pillars of Olympism – Sport, Culture and Education – which may offer great potentials for an Olympic education of youths. Based on these, he derives three central challenges for the Olympic Movement:

1. Educate young people

2. Motivate young people to practise sports

3. Teach young people Olympic values

If we take a closer look at this quotation, it becomes clear that the five Olympic values – like the five Olympic rings – are interlinked and that it would hardly be possible to teach them separately, i.e. teaching Olympic values can only be successful in a complex process.

Based on my own 28 year-experience as a high school teacher and some years as an IOC OVEP moderator, I will try to present you some practical ideas and activities on how to focus on teaching “Respect”.

2. Olympism and Olympic education

The terms “Olympism” and “Olympic education” are defined on the basis of the educational works of Pierre de Coubertin (1863–1937), and the value definitions derived from these.1 It would lead too far to give a complete chronological presentation of the pioneering models of Olympic education here. The views of the main representatives, apart from a few minor deviations, coincide in the central ideas (Lenk 19722, Andrecs 1973, Grupe 1996, Müller 1991, Geßmann 1992, Schantz 1996, Binder 2000, Naul 2002).

Although I just used a quotation from the IOC’s Olympic Values Education Program at the beginning, containing five Olympic values, I usually prefer the more elaborated definiton by Grupe/Müller (20037, 415), based on the following seven individual values of Olympic education, which also form the theoretical basis of my today’s lecture as well as my long studies on Olympic education:

1. Self-awareness through sport

2. Holistic, harmonious education

3. The idea of human perfection through sports performance

4. Conscious commitment to and respect for ethical principles in the practice of sport/respect for and tolerance of others, e.g. in the ideal of fair play

5. Social encounters and understanding in sport

6. The concept of peace and international understanding

7. Promotion of emancipatory developments in and through sport (e.g. involvement of athletes, emancipation of women, protection of nature etc.).2

If we translate the teaching of Olympic values into didactical terms, the didactic matrix for integrated Olympic education of Naul (2007) may be helpful in clarifying the different areas of learning, disposals, actions and orientations.

In order to cover the entire spectrum of Olympic education within the network of Coubertin schools, the matrix was expanded by the author to include a fifth area of learning – artistic creativity – in 2011.3

Fig.1: The expanded didactic matrix for integrated Olympic education(following Naul 2007, 108 and Naul 2008, 126).

These five spheres of learning for an Olympic education, which run alongside one another in the didactic matrix, are therefore of equal significance. They have a mutual need for one another and they each complete one another (cf. Naul 2007, 108f.).

Talking about “teaching respect”, this matrix also illustrates that it is difficult or even impossible to try to teach this value separately. Social conduct and moral behaviour are closely interlinked as youth usually act in a community. Both of these first demand knowledge in order to understand Olympic values, accept values, to seek for good examples and to finally be able to respect different cultures, to act in solidarity, to behave fairly, etc.

This leads to the following questions:

• How are the educational values of Olympism learned? How can they be taught? What are the best methods?

3. Teaching Olympic values

3.1 General remarks

Generally, it might be stated that Olympic values are communicated:

• through ceremonies at Olympic Games

• through symbols and traditions

• during Youth Olympic Games (including the Cultural and Educational Program)

• within the Coubertin Schools Network (during the biannual Youth Forums and at the respective schools themselves)

• by celebrating Olympic Days at the schools4

Olympic values are shared:

• through Olympic sport (including competitive sport at different age levels)

• through Olympian visits to schools

• children’s arts projects

• various projects on Olympic education (e.g. “Coubertin Academy”)5

Over the past 50 years, especially starting with the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976, numerous materials for an Olympic education have been developed. Among the most frequently used tools are:

• Olympic educational programs by host cities/countries of Olympic Games

• Comprehensive international Olympic educational programs (e.g. “Keep the Spirit Alive”, “OVEP”, “Coubertin Academy”)

• National Olympic educational programs, elaborated on and supported by National Olympic Committees and Academies

• Models for sports-specific values education, usually conceived of as longterm projects (cf. Nikolaus 2013)

3.2. How to teach respect?

According to the official IOC’s educational program (OVEP), “Respect for others” is significant because:

Learning to accept and respect diversity can promote peace and international understanding. The Olympic Movement brings together all races and cultures and can serve as a model for tolerance and understanding

(Binder 2007, 124).

But it is obvious that the term “Respect” comprises much more than the respect of people from different cultures. Talking about the entire spectrum of Respect, the following aspects should be taken into consideration:

• Respect for self

• Respect for women and children

• Respect for people with disabilities

• Respect for people of different religions, cultures and age groups

• Respect for our environment etc.

All these aspects should be included into an Olympic education.

In what follows I will try to illustrate how teaching “Respect” can be successful in the educational process of youths, using two concrete examples.

3.2.1 The International Network of Coubertin Schools

At the moment, 25 schools from five continents are working closely together in the CIPC’s Network of Coubertin Schools, which is growing faster and faster.

Due to Coubertin’s ideas of international friendship, fight for peace in the world, fair play and mutual respect,6 students and teachers regularly exchange experiences and participate in joint projects.

Every two years representatives of these schools meet at an International Youth Forum of Coubertin Schools. This is always not only a wonderful highlight with unforgetable events in the Olympic spirit, but has also become an intensive course on Olympic education over the past 17 years.

The first Forum was held in Le Havre (France) in 1997. Last summer we celebrated the 9th Youth Forum in Lillehammer (Norway), host city of the Winter Olympic Games in 1994.

Traditionally, competitions for the Coubertin Award (cf. CIPC 2006, pp. 16–25) are at the centre of the forum.

By anaIogy of the five Olympic rings, the award covers five different disciplines, which also pay tribute to Coubertin’s conception of a harmonious development of the whole human being: an education of body, mind and will (cf. Müller, N. 20037, p. 415):

1. Social Performance

2. Olympic Knowledge Test

3. Sporting Performance

4. Cultural Performance

5. Discussion on Olympic Values

The motto of the Lillehamer Forum in 2013 was: “Youth and the Olympics – Sustainable Development and Closeness to Nature”.

In Lillehammer, teaching “Respect” already started with the accommodation of the participants. Five students, coming from different countries or even continents, various culture areas, speaking different languages and practising different religions, shared a small appartment.

In order to understand each other, they first had to find their lingua franca (mostly English or French). The youths, by arranging their daily routine, preparing their meals together and by having long talks with their room-mates, learned a lot about each other’s culture, traditions and customs.

Other opportunities for cultural exchange and respecting diversity were offered by the Mini-Expo, the cultural performances of each team, international dances or excursions. Especially with the latter two, the aim was also to meet and know better the local Norwegian people, who joined some of the events with great interest and curiosity.

In surveys among forum participants of three different CIPC Forums, it is evident that “the friendship with young people from different countries” and “learning about customs and traditions of other countries” were of great importance to the youths.7

Fig. 2: What experiences did you have during the Youth Forumthat are most important to you? (Question 11).

The central topic of the group discussions was “Respect for our Environment”. All teams had been asked to prepare a collection of posters at home, in order to illustrate the current dangers for our environment, to propose activities of how each individual may contribute in stopping the on-going pollution and also to deal with the environmental impact of (Olympic) sport, as well as measures to organise truly sustainable sports events.

The creativity of the respective teams and the variety of activities on environmental projects they proposed were overwhelming. During the discussion, the participants exchanged their experiences and expanded their knowledge.

While living close to nature, practising lots of activities outdoors, learning from the good example of the local Norwegians and taking care of a sustainable lifestyle during this week,8 the participants developed a greater awareness of the importance of the strategies learned and were now able to make a difference in the sustainability of their environment upon returning home.

Of course, the sports competitions and free time activities also offered numerous occasions for practising social conduct and moral behaviour by seeking good examples, adhering to rules, accepting values, acting in solidarity and respecting other cultures.

The Paralympic Day, when all participants had the chance to meet athletes of the National Paralympian Team of Norway, was an outstanding event. With great respect, they honoured the athletes’ achievements, especially after having tried some of these sports themselves.

Finally, the Social Performance, an obligatory part of the Coubertin Award, offered a multitude of learning occasions with regard to respect for younger, elderly or handicapped people, people of different culture areas or religions within the local community or to obtain an awareness of respecting our nature.9

Fig. 3: Social Performance for the Pierre de Coubertin Award(Question 5).

Unfortunately, we cannot provide such ideal learning conditions in an international community of a Youth Forum to all pupils. Nevertheless, there are some events and activities which may be included into everyday school life and can offer various options demanding social conduct or moral behaviour.

3.2.2 An Olympic Day at the School

On occasion of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, an Olympic Day was organised at the Pierre de Coubertin Gymnasium Erfurt for a second time. We are one of the three sports schools in the federal state of Thuringia in central Germany. All pupils practise one of the eleven Olympic sports offered at our High School as performance sport. PE lessons and training are well integrated into the timetable, in order to provide children and youths with the best conditions to combine academic learning and performance sport.

We do not have many ethnic groups at our school. Pupils representing minorities only make up a small percentage. Nevertheless, we are focussing on teaching “Respect for Others”. Being one of the founding members of the International Network of Coubertin Schools, a multicultural and global education does play an important role at our institution.

For our efforts and projects in this field, we were honoured with the title “School against Racism” in 2010.

In 2014, the following workshops were organised for the 250 children and youths from classes 5–8:

Fig. 4: Olympic Day at Coubertin Gymnasium 2014: Workshops for different areasof learning and age groups.

These workshops provided various ocassions for co-operative learning, playing fair and acting in solidarity, in a different educational surrounding. Thus, the team spirit within the class and the respect of class-mates training in different kinds of sports was strengthened.

Finally, there was another important objective, that is to sensitise children and youths to respect handicapped people by trying different Paralympic sports.

Fig. 5: Second School Internal Pierre de Coubertin Award 2014 at CoubertinSports School Erfurt, project description.

3.2.3 The School Internal Pierre de Coubertin Award at Coubertin Sports School Erfurt

Whereas the workshops for the younger classes were mainly based on the fascination for the Olympic Games – that is, having fun while being physically active or artistically creative –, for this age group, a more serious learning program had been developed in order to extend the pupils’ knowledge on Pierre de Coubertin, his works and different aspects of the Olympic Movement.

There, the competitive character of the disciplines played a much greater role, as the aim was to find the best girls and boys of each year in order to nominate them for the next school team to participate in the 10th Youth Forum of Coubertin Schools in Piešt’any (Slovakia) in 2015.

Except for the sports competitions, all workshops were organised as bilingual modules, to prepare the youths for the high standards of the youth forums and to enable them to communicate with young athletes coming from different countries.

Regarding teaching of Respect, the following aspects were considered important:

Respect for self

It is no secret that in competitive sport, also among teenagers, cases of eating disorders, like anorexia and Bulimia nervosa, may occur.

In order to inform children about those risks and promote a healthy nutrition to prevent such cases, a bilingual module on “Sports and food” was integrated into the educational program for the first time. This workshop should also enable the young athletes to decide on the best dietary plan according to their special sport and training program.

Furthermore, the topic of “Respect for your own body” included aspects like a good balance between training and active and passive relaxation, possibilities to avoid sports injuries as well as the risks of doping.

Respect for others

In order to develop the social competences of all participants, eight mixed teams – named after Olympic mascots – were created, where pupils from different classes, practising different special sports, competed together. In this way, respect for athletes training in different summer and winter sports was experienced, practised and lived.

Finally, concerning Social Performance, similar results were reached, as in the preparation for the Youth Forums of Coubertin Schools. Young people are willing to support those who need our help: younger pupils in the boarding house or the community, elderly and handicapped people. Furthermore, following the good example of the volunteers in Olympic Games, they contributed a lot to support the organisation of sports or cultural events in their sports clubs or communities.

4. Conclusion

Undoubtedly, the best practices presented here may make a considerable contribution to an education of the younger generation, the development of their personality and in teaching respect for diversity. They can function as “door openers” for an intercultural and global learning and help to improve the understanding for other cultures (cf. Gall 1999, 55–61).

For the effective implementation of those activities, based on my experiences as a teacher for nearly three decades, I’d like to offer some recommendations, which might be helpful to other Olympic educators, too (see Nikolaus 2013):

1. Teaching Respect is a complex process. That is why we use an interdisciplinary approach to benefit from all five learning areas of Olympic education.

2. Use events in order to make the learning process more semtimental i.e. related to emotion (Olympic Day/Week, Meeting with Olympians/ Paralympians of your country/region etc.).

3. Organise Olympic educational activities as competitions: Olympic values have to be experienced, practised and lived by the youths themselves.

4. Use problem-oriented and pupil-centred exercises and activities. The youth must be actors in action!

5. Families and the community may play an important role in supporting your efforts. So, request their support!

The IOC, aware of the great potentials of an Olympic education, put the following key themes on its Agenda 2020, under its new President, Thomas Bach:

• Shape Olympism in action for more impact

– Youth Strategy (including the Youth Olympic Games)

– Education policy (IOC 2014, 46).

• Implement the education platform for educators to promote youngsters’ personal development through Olympism, including forums, best practices, resources and databases, etc. (IOC 2014, 51).

And all this allows us to hope that the IOC will continue its successful project of “Teaching Olympic Values”.

So, hopefully, lots of examples for teaching Respect and other Olympic values will soon be provided and will be easily accessible to Olympic educators, leading to a constant exchange of ideas and experiences.

1. Cf. Nikolaus, I. 2011, Chapter 2. A network is also being developed to include potential implementation forms according to Olympic educational target groups in a historical context.
2. Originally Grupe/Müller (20037) elaborated eight Olympic values (value four was documented as two single values. In a later interview Norbert Müller himself combined the two values as shown above).
3. Cf. Nikolaus, I. (2011, chapter 2.4.7) and comprehensively in Naul (2007, 106–112).
4. Cf. Implementation tools offered in the OVEP materials (Binder 2007, 124), completed with examples by the author.
5. Cf. Nikolaus, I. (2008).
6. Cf. Coubertin, P. de. (1986 [1915]). “Le respect mutuel”. In Müller, N. (Ed.), Pierre de Coubertin. Textes choisis. Tome I: Revelation. Zürich, Hildesheim, New York, pp. 317– 350.
7. Similar results had already been stated in 1975 by Norbert Müller during an interview of participants in the IOA sessions. They considered “the experience of the international community” and “the friendship and the encounter with participants from so many countries” as a very valuable experience (see Müller 1975, 210 and 223; translation by the author).
8. E.g. by separating the waste, saving energy and water.
9. Multiple answers were possible.


Andrecs, H. (1973). “The Olympic Idea and its Realization in Schools”. In (IOA) (Ed.), The International Olympic Academy. Thirteenth Session 1973. Ancient Olympia, pp. 180–189.

Binder, D. (Ed.) (2000). Be a Champion in Life! A Book of Activities for Young People Based on the Joy of Participation and on the Important Messages on the Olympic Idea. An International Teacher’s Resource Book for Schools. Athens: FOSE.

Binder, D. (Ed.) (2007). Teaching Values. An Olympic Education Toolkit. A Programme of the International Olympic Committee. Lausanne.

CIPC (Ed.) (2006). Criteria for schools seeking to gain the status of “Coubertin

School”. In force as from 10 October 2006. Lausanne. Coubertin-Gymnasium-Erfurt (Ed.) (2007). Coubertin Academy. A Handbook for Education in Secondary Schools. Product of a Joint Sokrates Comenius 1 Project on School Development. Piešt’any, Sopot, Ülenurme, Erfurt.

Coubertin, P. de. (1986 [1915]). “Le respect mutuel”. In Müller, N. (Ed.), Pierre de Coubertin. Textes choisis. Tome I: Revelation. Zürich, Hildesheim, New York, pp. 317–350.

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Naul, R. (2007). Olympische Erziehung. In Aschebrock, H./Pack, R.-P. (Eds.), Edition Schulsport. Aachen, 108.

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Nikolaus, I. (2008). “How can one teach Olympism at school? – ‘Coubertin Academy’ as one way to answer the challenge”. In International Olympic Academy (Ed.) (2009). 8th International Session for Educators and Officials of Higher Institutes of Physical Education 10–17 July 2008, Proceedings, Ancient Olympia, pp. 219–226.

Nikolaus, I. (2011). Die Olympische Idee Pierre de Coubertins als erzieherische Herausforderung für die weltweite Olympische Bewegung. Eine historische Aufarbeitung, Analyse und Fortschreibung nationaler und internationaler olympischer Erziehungsprogramme für Schulen, Dissertation, Universität Mainz.

Nikolaus, I. (2014). Olympic Education around the World. 12th International Session for Directors of National Olympic Academies 12–19 May 2013, Ancient Olympia, IOA/IOC, pp. 97–111.

Rogge, J. (2007). “Foreword”. In Binder, D. (2007), Teaching Values. An Olympic Education Toolkit. A Programme of the International Olympic Committee. Lausanne, p. 7.

Schantz, O. (1996). “Werte des Olympismus für die Sporterziehung?” In Müller N./ Messing, M. (Eds.), Auf der Suche nach der Olympischen Idee, Frankfurt, pp. 75–92.

NIKOLAUS Ines, "Lessons and  activities for teaching respect in Olympic education", in: K. Georgiadis(ed.), Olympic values: Respect for diversity, 54th International Session for Young Participants (Ancient Olympia, 15-29/6/2014), International Olympic Academy, Athens, 2015, pp.153-168.

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