I’ve always loved watching the Olympic Games. The Olympics are, in my opinion, a great way to promote (advocate, encourage) international cooperation (working together). Because many countries compete (to take part in a contest) in the Olympic Games, we are exposed to (made aware of) many different athletes and cultures. Plus, you get to watch all kinds of different sports! That’s why this week, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some Olympics vocabulary in English.

The Olympics take place (happen) every four years. There are Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics, and different sports are played in each. Some people prefer to watch the Summer Olympics, while others like the Winter Olympics better. Do you have a preference? No matter what you like more, check out some of the Olympics vocabulary you’ll need to know the next time you tune into (watch) the games.

Sportsmanship (ˈspɔrtsmənˌʃɪp)

Sportsmanship is a very important part of any athletic (sports) competition. Sportsmanship is being able to behave (act) in a good, respectful manner towards others, even if you lose. Someone who yells and screams and blames other players for their loss doesn’t have very good sportsmanship. However, shaking hands with your opponent (other player or team) after a match, and telling them that they played well is a good example of sportsmanship. At the end of the day, it’s all about good behavior and respect. Can you think of someone who displays good sportsmanship?

For example:

  • After he lost the match, the tennis player threw his racket and walked off the court without saying anything to his opponent. He was later criticized in the media for not displaying good sportsmanship.
  • Even though our soccer team lost, I was proud of them for showing good sportsmanship. They congratulated the other team on their win, and told them how well they had played.

Gold medal/silver medal/bronze medal (ˈɡoʊld ˈmɛdl̩/ˈsɪlvɚ ˈmɛdl̩/ˈbrɑnz ˈmɛdl̩)

When athletes take part in the Olympics, they’re trying to win either a gold medal, silver medal, or bronze medal. These are the medals you win for coming in first, second, or third place. Winning a gold medal in the Olympics is a huge deal, because it means you’re the best athlete in the world in your sport. People are very happy when an athlete from their country wins a gold, silver, or bronze medal. It’s a huge achievement, and something to be very proud of!

For example:

  • She came very close to winning a gold medal, and only lost by a few points. She was still very proud to have won silver, though!
  • He couldn’t believe that he had won a gold medal in the Olympics! He had put in so much work to get to that point, but it still didn’t feel real.

National anthem (ˈnæʃənl̩ ˈænθəm)

When learning Olympics vocabulary, another important word to know is national anthem. The national anthem is the official song of a country. National anthems are usually very patriotic (proud of a country) and are played at official events. When athletes win gold medals at the Olympics, their national anthem is played and their country’s flag is raised as a sign of respect. When the Olympics finish, the Greek national anthem is played, as that is where the games first started, as well as the national anthem of the host country (country where the games are held that year).

For example:

  • The athletes stood on the podium and listened as the winner’s national anthem was played. The winner was very proud to have won a medal for their country.
  • She began to cry tears of joy as her national anthem was played at the Olympics. She never thought she would win gold!

Torch (ˈtɔrtʃ)

The Olympic torch is an important part of the opening ceremony for the Olympic games. A torch is a bit of fire in a holder, making it able to be carried by hand. Before the Olympics start, there is the Olympic torch relay. The Olympic flame starts out in Olympia, Greece (where the games started), and is carried by many people to the location of the Olympic games. This journey starts a few months before the opening ceremony, and an important part of the opening ceremony for the Olympics is when the torch is brought into the stadium and is used to light the Olympic flame. This fire will then burn for the duration (entire time) of the Olympics.

For example:

  • It is a huge honor to carry the Olympic torch into the stadium for the opening ceremony. As a former gold medalist for the host country, he was honored to be the one to carry it for the last leg of the relay.
  • For the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the Olympic torch traveled around 20,000 kilometers and was carried by 12,000 different people.

Commentator (ˈkɑmənˌteɪtɚ)

A commentator, or someone who describes what is happening in a game, is a very useful thing to have if you’re watching the Olympics from home! Because there are so many different sports you can watch in the Olympics, you may not always know what’s going on. This is where a commentator comes in handy. A commentator describes what is happening in the sport, and may even explain some of the rules or statistics so people know what’s happening.

For example:

  • One of the things I love about the Olympics is watching sports I don’t know very well, like judo. Thank god for commentators! Otherwise I would have no idea what’s going on in these sports.
  • Having a good commentator is an essential part of the Olympics, so that people at home can understand what is happening in the game.

What do you like most about the Olympics? Is there any other Olympics vocabulary you’ve always wanted to know? Let us know in the comments below!

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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and learns some new Olympics vocabulary every four years.

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