Olympic Debating Topics; Rio 2016


5 Olympic Debating Topics; Rio 2016

Debating, arguing, listening to others, looking from differing perspectives, weighing up arguments for and against is a terrific way of developing deeper and critical thinking for all.

The Olympic Games in Rio has been a riot of colour, action and success. But behind the headlines and Gold Medals it has also provided moments which can challenge our thinking.

Below I present five areas that could be used to stimulate debate:

For each topic a great starter is to show the photo before the debating question;

  • Get students to write down or describe what they can see
  • Get the students to make a list of questions that they have about the photo
  • Split the class into two sides and get them to make arguments for or against the debating questions/statements

The information below and suggested debating questions/statements are just that – suggestions; ideally get the students to come up with a statement themselves then divide the class into two groups to argue for and against the statement.

At the end do they support the statement? Disagree or abstain? How have they come to that decision – what were their reasons?


volleyball burkini1

Some Background…

  • Egypt vs Germany Beach Volleyball Match
  • Up until 2012 female players were obliged to wear bikinis or one piece swimming costumes
  • The Australian Sports Commission complained that the regulations focused attention on players bodies rather than technical or practical advancement
  • Doaa Elghobashy, becomes the first Olympian beach volleyball player to wear a hijab after last minute concession by the International Volleyball Federation

 News Story – BBC


Does the photo and match show cultural divide or the unifying power of sport?

Which team promotes women’s rights more?

‘The Burkini is not suitable for beach volleyball’

‘Players uniforms have sexualised Beach Volleyball’



Some Background…

  • Islam El Shehaby (Of Egypt) lost a Judo match against Or Sassan (Of Israel)
  • Islam El Shehaby refused to shake the hand of his opponent at the end of the contest
  • El Shehaby later said that he did not want to shake hands with an Israeli and was not breaking any Judo rules in not doing so
  • The IOC (International Olympic Committee) decided that he had breached ‘fair play’ rules and was sent home

 News Story – Reuters


‘Sport should not be used for political purposes’

In what circumstances would it be acceptable not to shake hands with an opponent?



Some Background…

  • Anna and Lisa Hahner twins from Germany joined hands as they crossed the finish line in the Rio Marathon
  • They finished 15 minutes slower than their personal best times
  • They finished 81st and 82nd in the final
  • The pair host their own YouTube channel

 News Story – Independent


‘The Olympic games is not about the winning it is the taking part’

Could the financial benefits of holding hands and finishing be greater than achieving a medal?



Some Background…

  • Frenchman and Renaud Lavillenie was booed by spectators during his final jump
  • Brazilian Thiago Braz da Silva jumped an Olympic record 6.03m to win Gold in front of a predominantly home crowd
  • Renaud Lavillenie admits and apologies for inappropriate comment comparing the crowd to those experienced by Jesse Owens in the 1936 Games

 News Story – The Gaurdian

News Story BBC


As a paying spectator it is acceptable to influence performance

Etiquette should be enforced



  • Total cost will be around £12 Billion Pounds
  • Protests disrupted the Olympic Torch Relay with local people upset that money earmarked for social projects had been used for Olympic purposes
  • It is the first Olympics to be hosted in South America
  • 14 New venues built and others revamped and updated
  • Brazil is still considered a developing country due to its low gross domestic product and other socioeconomic factors

News Story – CNBC

News Story – World Finance


Hosting the Games should be based tough economic requirements

The IOC should award the next Games to Africa


Please also find attached below a pdf of each set of photos which could be used as a starter for discussion or debate:





olympic torch relay

If your classes enjoy debate and discussion I also highly recommend the Contemporary History Debate Sheets (CH Weekly) produced by my Old History Teacher Sir (I have awarded him that title myself!) James Honeybone – he has a huge archive and more information can be found via his website; http://www.chweekly.co.uk/

I hope you explore some of these topics with your students and give them the opportunity to explore different perspectives and to consider their opinions. If you do please let me know how you get on.


Kevin Peake

Founder of PESA; The PE and Sports Assessment Tool

Get it on Google Play





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