News, Sports, Technology

iPhone App Helps Blind Olympic Torchbearer

The Summer Olympic torch. Image: LOCOG

2012 summer Olympic Games takes place in London, England starting next month.

From July 27 to August 12, athletes from 203 countries around the world will converge on the city to compete in sports including swimming, cycling, gymnastics, archery, sailing and diving.

(For a complete list of the events at this year’s summer Olympics, here is the official Olympics website page with the list.)

Before the competitions begin, the Olympic torch is run in a cross-country relay through more than 1,000 cities in the United Kingdom (UK).

The torch was lit in Greece, among the ruins of the Temple of Hera in Olympia, the spot where the first Olympics was held back in 776 BCE.

The torch was flown to the UK on May 18 and the huge, cross-country relay began. In the relay, runners hold the torch aloft as they run and when they get to a certain spot they light the next runner’s torch–and so on.

The last torchbearer will light the giant cauldron in the Olympic Stadium in London, to mark the start of the Olympic Games for 2012.

More than 8,000 torchbearers, chosen because they have been inspirational in some way, will carry the flame.

The three medals – gold (middle), silver (left) and bronze – that will be given away during the London Olympics.

On June 26, Simon Wheatcroft carried the flame in Armthorpe, UK. The extraordinary thing about his run is that Wheatcroft has been blind since he was 17 years old, when he developed a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Wheatcroft has never let his disability limit him. Two years ago, he took up running to get fit and stave off boredom. Because he’s blind, he uses an iPhone app called RunKeeper to keep track of where he’s running and where the bends and turns in the roads are. He used his iPhone app during his Olympic run.

Wheatcroft said that during his part of the relay he felt like he’d been running a long time – and in fact he had! He’d gone past the finish marker where he was to stop running. However, because everyone was so excited and inspired by him, they let him keep running a bit longer than his marked time.

When he did stop, he passed his flame to a lantern. The lantern took the flame to the next town where runners continued to carry it in the relay.

The Olympic torch is intended as a symbol, spreading a message of “peace, unity and friendship.”

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
While technology, such as video games, can be a lot of fun and entertaining, technology can also be very helpful. For example, Simon Wheatcroft, a runner who is also blind, used an iPhone app in order to map his running routes.

Can you think of other pieces of technology that are designed to help people? How do they work?

Reading Prompt: Purpose
TKN is taking a break for the summer, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to read the news. In addition to reading through TKN archives, what else could you do to keep up with the daily news?

Primary, Junior and Intermediate
Identify a variety of purposes for reading and choose reading materials appropriate for those purposes (OME, Reading: 1.2).

Grammar Feature: Writing Numbers
There are several numbers written in this article. Sometimes they are written in words and sometimes they are written numerically (with numbers). Can you figure out when the journalist chose to write numbers in words or with digits?