The Olympics are a great learning opportunity for your family, teaching all about sports, history, culture, geography, mathematics, and diplomacy! With the 2008 Summer Games starting up August 8th in Beijing, this is your chance to teach your child about China’s famous landmarks and this country’s fascinating history. Here are some facts to share with your child in preparation for the Summer Olympic Games:

  • China is the fourth largest country in the world with over 1.3 billion people. In ancient times, the people lived near the country’s two major rivers, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, which is the third longest river in the world. China was isolated for centuries due to the topography.The Gobi Desert and the Taklimakan Desert, the second largest hot desert in the world, are in northern China.  The Himalayan Mountains with Mount Everest, the world’s highest summit, lie in southwestern China.  The east coast of China is bordered by the Yellow Sea to the north and the China Sea to the south. It is in these waters, near the city of Qingdao, where the Olympic sailing competition will take place.
  • Beijing has been making improvements in the city in anticipation for the Olympic Games.  A new building called the National Stadium or the Bird’s Nest has been constructed. The opening and closing ceremonies will be held here, in addition to track and field events and the men’s soccer games. The Bird’s Nest can seat 91,000 people! This new building is expected to become a well-known landmark long after the Olympics are over.
  • Within the center of the city of Beijing lies Tiananmen Square which is one of the largest public squares in the world. Workers have recently cleaned the square by scrubbing the thousands upon thousands of bricks for the expected influx of camera crews and tourists during the Olympics. Thousands of people visit Tiananmen Square every day. Many people come here at sunrise to watch the daily national flag raising ceremony. On the south end of the square is the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall where the body of Chairman Mao lies in state.  On the north end of the square is Tiananmen Tower which was originally built during the Ming dynasty in 1417.It marks the entrance to the Forbidden City.
  • The Forbidden City or the Palace Museum is the world’s largest palace complex. It was the home of Chinese emperors for five centuries. Building of the complex began in 1407 and was completed 14 years later! Many of the decorations in the palace are yellow, the symbol of the royal family, as are the bricks and roof of the complex. There are towers surrounding the complex which allow a view of the palace and of the city of Beijing.
  • Perhaps the most famous landmark in China is The Great Wall of China which is actually a series of walls that were built and rebuilt by different dynasties for protection from invaders. Construction was started during the third century B.C. and the last part of the wall was built during the Ming dynasty. It is this last part that is the most popular with tourists. The Great Wall is over 3,700 miles long with watch towers at regular intervals, and is visible from space. On a section of the Great Wall outside Beijing is an 8-mile-long banner made up of the national and regional flags of the participants in the Olympic Games. It is called the Olympic Dragon.

So, don’t just veg in front of the TV, make watching the Olympics a fun learning experience this year!