Recommended age group: 7–19
Time required: two to three 45–60 min sessions and independent learning
Equipment: What's their story? activity sheet, London 2012 ceremonies image gallery, computers for research.


Start by sharing images of clips from the London 2012 Opening Ceremony using the image bank or watching extracts from the London 2012 Olympic Games' Opening Ceremony. Watch from 13:19 for opening countryside scenes, folk songs and representation of the industrial revolution, 34:00 for James Bond and the Queen, or 43:53 for the celebration of the NHS, or 1:04:47 for a look at modern British film, music and technology.  

What story did these different images tell? Talk about how the story gave a flavour of Great Britain, its history, customs, traditions, sense of humour, etc.

Ask the children to write or draw ideas of their own of other great British moments – or people – that could have been included in the Opening Ceremony, such as events or people that they feel are important or make them proud of who they are and where they live.

Show the United Kingdom on a world map and talk about its size and location compared with other countries such as USA or China (the two countries that topped the London 2012 medal table putting Great Britain into third place). Explain that every country has its own unique history and traditions and things that make its people special – everywhere is different and everywhere has its own story to tell.

(The activity sheet 'What's their story' can be used to provide structured support for recording their ideas and developing their own 'stories of Great Britain'.)

After looking at stories from Britain, use the 'What's their story?' activity sheet to help the children research their chosen country and to plan their own Opening Ceremony stories.

What's their story?

Looking at the world map, show the children where the next Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held. You could also look at past host nations – marking the different countries on the map.

Or, you could begin by thinking about a country represented by an Olympic or Paralympic athlete that you and your students admire, for example, Usain Bolt – Jamaica, Fu Yuanhai – China, Michael Phelps or Simone Biles – USA.

The children could work in small groups on different categories or different countries. Or you could run this as a whole school project with different classes taking on a country. With younger children, you could scale this down and focus on your own local community – what is it best known for – what makes it and its people special?

Support the children in researching the history, geography, culture and traditions of the chosen country/ place. What can they discover? e.g. Brazil: national language is Portuguese, Amazon rainforests, Rio carnival, football, Samba music and dance.

If possible, find relevant museums/exhibitions/galleries to take the class to, or invite people from this country in to talk to the children, to bring their research to life. As they are researching, remind them to consider: 'What makes this country/ its people special? What makes it unique?'

If groups or classes have been finding out about different countries, you could hold a quick quiz, to see if they can guess each other's country – how many events/symbols/ people do they need to see before they can guess the country?

Using the information they have found, the children can now plan a simple storyboard that could be used as an opening ceremony for their selected country, to best demonstrate its roots and traditions, etc. What story do they want to tell? Remind them that the story from the London 2012 Opening Ceremony was for 'everyone' – how could they make sure their ceremony achieves this too?


Go the extra mile

Why not support the children in developing their ideas further, leading up to a live performance of their ceremonies? This could be developed as an assembly or opened up to the wider community. It could be as basic as a costume parade with key facts read out about the country or a poem with mime..? Or perhaps those budding 'Danny Boyles' have something more elaborate in mind?

Can you involve link schools from the represented countries?

  • inviting them to provide ideas for the stories/events
  • creating similar stories/events in their own schools/settings?

Storytelling through the ages

In today's multimedia world, people can share their stories in many ways with a huge audience, through films, books, songs, news stories and even blogs on the Internet. The children might enjoy finding out more about the magical history of storytelling – or the different ways in which people/ countries have recorded their 'stories' throughout the ages, for example, hieroglyphics, totem poles, Aboriginal cave paintings, oral chanting/ rhythmic forms, myths and legends.