by Dennis Dalman
As the International Olympics’ stirring theme trumpeted from loudspeakers, a long parade of students solemnly entered the gymnasium at Pine Meadow Elementary School for Olympics Day April 20.
Each class of students carried a large hand-colored flag of the country they were representing, just like in the “real” Olympics.
In the front of the gymnasium, Sartell Mayor Joe Perske welcomed the students, shaking their hands one by one, as they passed by, the Olympics anthem still blaring, on their way to their seats on the gym floor.
Each country, as its representatives entered, was announced loudly:
“The United States of America!”
The “pretend” host country was Great Britain, which welcomed all of the other countries to the games. Then, led by the host country, all of the children and teachers in the gymnasium launched into a version of Great Britain’s national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” which students had the chance to practice previously.
Then the students sang the American National Anthem because the United States was the host country for the pretend-event.
After the procession ceremony and introductory remarks by Pine Meadow Principal Greg Johnson and Perske, two students came forward to help Perske light the Olympic torch on the stage. As the “electrifed” torch lit up with a bright orange flame, the students burst into joyous applause.
“Let the games begin!” Perske announced loudly.
After some dazzling acrobatic demonstrations by a few students, the others filed slowly and orderly back to their classrooms.
For many years, Pine Meadow Elementary has done a similar Olympics program as a means of teaching children about world togetherness.
Perske, a long-time award-winning runner, happens to have been a two-time Olympics-trials qualifier and has an extensive knowledge of the Olympics and what they represent. He shared some of that knowledge with the students during Olympics Day.
Years ago, Perske visited Olympia, Greece, where the Olympics first began almost 3,000 years ago. The games were held in ancient Greece from about 800 B.C. until 200 A.D., although no one is certain when the games ended in the ancient world under Roman domination. During his visit to the site of the first games in Olympia, Perske picked up a small pebble. At the April 20 Pine Meadow ceremony, he gave the pebble to the students so they could pass it around in their classrooms and realize that pebble came from the very ground where the Olympics originated.
Competitors at the Olympics understand that winning isn’t everything and the privilege of competing worldwide, with fellow athletes is the real honor, Perske noted. The point of the international games is to promote peace and friendship, Perske noted.
In the modern world, the Olympics take place every four years, and about 200 nations compete in both winter and summer sports.