Students take a cue from ancient Greeks in language Olympics
A Zeus challenge tug-of-war, an egg toss for vicious winged creatures, and a three-legged race for a wounded half-man-half-horse were games at the First World Language Olympics at Bob Jones High School.
The tongue-in-cheek events were "for the kids to have fun, not (as) a question-and-answer contest," said sponsor Raymond Congo, a Latin and history teacher at the high school. The athletes were language students and competed in various tests of strength and skill, such as field day activities.
Congo said a fellow teacher told her students to "remember in elementary school when you got to run around, act silly and play for a day. That's what this is, so go have fun."
Many of the students are taking several honors and/or advanced placement classes, he said. "Several teachers were glad these students were just having fun for a change, instead of worrying about their next test," he said.
The Olympics created a sense of camaraderie among the language clubs. As a follow-up for the World Language Festival in the fall, Congo said he wanted a spring event to involve students. Last year's state Latin convention inspired the Language Olympics. Before holding written competitions, Latin students from across Alabama held an Olympics competition, in which Bob Jones won third place in the boys' Stygian Stomp relating to the River Styx and second place in the girls' Herculean Holdup, a weightlifting contest.
Congo borrowed several games from the convention, and students added a few more.
To participate, students needed only to belong to the Spanish, French, German or Latin club. The athletes competed as teams, with the champion's sponsor keeping the "World Language Cup in their room and bragging rights for the next year," he said. The Latin Club took top honors, followed by the French, Spanish and German clubs, respectively.
Events were based on contests from Greek and Roman mythology. For the Perseus Toss, entrants threw a discus, or a Frisbee, through a hula-hoop target.
"Based on the myth that fate predicted Perseus would kill his grandfather," who then had Perseus and his mother locked in a chest and tossed into the sea, Congo said. "In mythology, you can never get away from fate," he said. As an adult, Perseus entered a discus-throwing contest but his discus "veers off course and kills an old man sitting in the stands. Guess who it was?"
Wrestling Proteus, based on a river god capable of changing shape at will, set students in a contest of saxum, charta, forficulae, or Latin for rock, paper, scissors.
Star Market in Madison donated bottled water and fruit for the World Language Olympics.
A foreign language is required for an advanced diploma, which most Bob Jones graduates receive. More than 700 students enroll in a language class yearly.