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A celebration of sport

XX Commonwealth Games, Glasgow (23 July–3 August 2014)

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the contribution sport makes – inspiring, uniting and creating hope.

Preparation and materials

  • To find information on the Commonwealth Games, visit:
  • Display the following quote from Nelson Mandela (May 2000, Monaco):
    ‘Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where there was once only despair.’
  • Have available images such as the following and the means to display them during the assembly (check copyright) and research both events online so you know the background:
    – Nelson Mandela handing over the trophy to the winner of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, at:
    – Elise Christie at the Sochi Games, at:


  1. Glasgow is hosting the XX Commonwealth Games from 23 July to 3 August.

    Check that the students know something of which countries constitute the Commonwealth, the ten core sports and the seven selected by Glasgow, the athletes, training regimes and so on.

  2. Read the displayed quote from Nelson Mandela.

    Nelson Mandela had already proved this point very powerfully in front of the whole world. In 1995, South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup. At that time, the people were still deeply divided into blacks and whites, the black Africans suffering greatly under the cruel system of apartheid.

    Football was the sport of the black African townships, rugby the sport of the white elite and, as such, was detested and shunned by the black majority. Nelson Mandela, however, turned up at that match wearing the green jersey of the Springboks team. In this act, he showed that he was at one, not just with his own people but also with their oppressors. 

    The green jersey was a symbol of privilege and separateness. By wearing it proudly, Mandela chose to demonstrate that he was offering friendship and peace across this great divide and, when the Springboks beat the All Blacks team, he was as enthusiastic in his praise as any white South African. 

    Show image of Nelson Mandela handing over trophy at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

  3. During the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Nelson Mandela’s words were played out many times. Spectators were inspired by the gruelling timetables of training that many had stuck to for years, athletes who had come back from serious injuries to compete again and friendship and support across the nations.

  4. Perhaps the story of Elise Christie – a British speed skater – displays most powerfully the fellowship that sport can bring. 

    Show image of Elise Christie.

    Here is some further information on Elise Christie, Great Britain’s speed skating queen, who skated in the 500-m, 1000-m, and 1,500-m races at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

    – She was born in Livingstone, Scotland, in 1990.
    – In the run-up to the Games, there were great hopes of medals, as she was the reigning European champion and world Bronze medallist over 1,000 m.
    – Unfortunately, however, she caused a crash during the 500-m final and was held responsible for tripping up two rivals – an Italian and South Korean, Park Seung-hi, causing the latter to miss out on the chance of a gold medal.
    – As a result, there were some very unpleasant messages on Twitter, thought to have come from Koreans, passionate about speed skating, that included cruel jokes about looks and even death threats.
    – In the 1,500-m heat, she was judged not to have finished because her foot was outside the finishing line and so was relegated to last place.
    – The vicious abuse continued. It hurt her and impacted her performance and training.

    As a result of all this, on her return to the track for the 1,000-m race, Elise was very emotional. She had seriously considered pulling out. What had helped her through?

    – The support she received from thousands of members of the British public. 
    – The support she received from her friend, the South Korean, Park Seung-hi herself. After the first disaster, she had come up and hugged Elise and gone to the media and stated that she didn’t blame her.
    – One of her coaches was South Korean.
    – Vigorous physical, psychological and emotional training over years that gave her the strength, courage and determination to get up and go again.

    The 1,000-m race had been seen as her best medal chance prior to the Games. Elise comfortably negotiated the quarter-final. She began the semi-final cautiously, but then tangled with a competitor. Both fell, but Elise finished in last place as the crash was deemed to be her fault. She had no chance to compete in the final. 

    Perhaps, for Elise, her biggest achievement was finding the courage to get back on the track and complete the races despite her mistakes and disappointments.

Time for reflection

When watching the Commonwealth Games this summer, don’t just look out for the winners; look out, too, for those who inspire you. They may do this because of the way they cope with being second or even last, the way they accept injuries, the way they speak of others or their grueling training schedules.

Dear God, 
We ask you to bless the Commonwealth Games taking place in Glasgow this summer. 
Thank you for nations coming together in unity and peace. 
Thank you for the way sport inspires millions across the world. 
Thank you for the dedication and determination of sportspeople. 
As we watch these events, may we also be inspired to be the best we can be. 

Publication date: July 2014   (Vol.16 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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