Friday, January 29, 2010

Review: The Winter Olympics: An Insider's Guide to the Legends, the Lore and the Games

The Vancouver (Canada) 2010 Winter Olympic Games start in 14 days on February 12th.   We are planning a unit study to coincide with these games and have I found an amazing book resource: 

The Winter Olympics: An Insider's Guide to the Legends, the Lore and the Games is the perfect "spine" for building a unit study, using during the games, and accessing after the games are over.  Written by veteran Seattle Times columnist Ron C. Judd, this book is amazingly readable while still being packed with information, statitstics and information for armchair-athletes and sports-historians alike.  Judd, who has covered every Olympic game (winter and summer) since 1998's games in Nagano, Japan has created a source book with:
  • historical, background information about the Winter Olympics from the first in 1924 (Chamonix, France) through the Turin Games of 2006 (including personal experience of tracking down information about the first Winter Olympic which wasn't an Olympic until two years later!)
  • a sport-by-sport guide to the Games: 
    • the rules of each game, where (what kind of field) the event occurs, how one wins, what equipment is needed, etc.;
    • historical background for each event -- the high- and low-lights of the past;
    • information about the best atheletes [note:  for detailed specifics for every Olympic match-up, the author recommends referencing David Wallechinsky's The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics] and/or the North American best in each event;
    • how Vancouver will be handling each event (where and any other pertinent information)
  • scattered throughout are past columns written by Judd for different Winter Olympics to give a historic feel of "you were there" proportions
Judd is particularly well-suited to author this book that we'll be using:  he is a veteran sports-journalist, living in the Seattle area (120 miles south of Vancouver), enjoys winter sports and has been to the venues as a sports-enthusiast (mountain-climbing and hiking the area) and is an excellent writer.  The book opens with a descriptive essay describing the journalist's experiences in Nagano -- the endless, over-packed, media buses driving three hours to a venue only to turn back without a story because the weather was too warm ... or too cold ... or too foggy ... or too much snow had fallen -- the writing is sports-journalism at its best.  This is a living book of the first water!

Later in the book, Judd describes Vancouver's anxiety while waiting the July 2003 morning for the announcement from the IOC about who would get the 2010 Olympics -- the majority of Vancouverians wanted these games.  Judd details the excitement tinged with trepidation as the time passes with no word from Prague.  Finally, Vancouver was named the winner -- with a small voting margin of 56-53 -- to beat out South Korea for the honor of hosting the world in 2010.  Millions of dollars later, Vancouver -- the largest, most metropolitan city ever to host a Winter Games -- is poised to greet the world and show their stuff.  Judd gives great detail about each of the venues and locations where the 5000+ athletes/officials from the 80+ countries will compete for Olympic Gold for the 15 days in February (Feb 12-28); these sites will again be used a month later for the Paralympic Winter Games in March (another part of our overall unit study).

We're excited about our unit study and I'm thrilled to find a one-stop, spine for using with our study. 

I'll give other resources we'll be using in a post specifically about our study, but would be remiss if I didn't mention one of the ways we'll "live" the Olympics:   Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games (on the Wii).  We have found that the Wii is a great way to experience different sports and the Mario/Sonic game promises to add quite a bit to our Winter Olympic 2010 experience.  Fun, active learning at its best! Want to join us?

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