The modern Olympic Games were first held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Since then, the games have been held in cities like London, Paris and Los Angeles — the closest they have ever been to Chautauqua Institution is Lake Placid, New York, in 1932 and 1980.
But get ready, Chautauqua, to have your very own summer games: the CHQ Olympics.
Starting at noon Sunday and lasting through Thursday, individuals and teams of Chautauquans will compete in various activities. Some activities will be competitive and points will be awarded to winning teams — by the end of Week Three, gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded.
The CHQ Olympics debuted last season, and many aspects of this season’s games will seem familiar.
“I was really lucky to have been given a pretty good foundation from what was done last year,” said Alyssa Porter, who recently joined Institution staff as director of youth and family programs this season. “For a first-year event, it sounds like it was a really big success.”
Porter had some ideas of her own to enhance the experience. She wanted to offer a wide range of activities — some are competitive and others are participatory. Teams can earn competitive points for events like the Inflatable Swan Race from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday at Children’s Beach. Others focus on wellness, and teams can earn participation points through events like the Choose Your Own Wellness Adventure, which doesn’t have a specific time or date.
“You can choose to walk 10,000 steps; you can bike,” Porter said. “You can try out a new healthy recipe, you can practice mindfulness or meditation, or do whatever works for you on your wellness journey.”
The goal is inclusivity for all Chautauquans. Other featured events include science, technology, engineering, arts and math events on Bestor Plaza; lawn games from noon to 2 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday on Bestor Plaza; and kayaking from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the Sports Club.
And what set of games would be complete without a structure modeled off of Harry Potter?
The 2019 CHQ Olympics will be structured like a House Cup from the famous J.K. Rowling series. Participants can enter as an individual or as teams of four to six people. Each individual and team will be assigned a color — blue, green, red and orange — toward which competitive and participatory points will be counted. All points will be tracked by volunteers, and Porter said the winning color, or “house” will be announced at 5:30 p.m. Thursday during the closing ceremonies on Bestor Plaza. Essentially, individual and team entrants become part of a larger team — their color — as they compete throughout the week.
But to Porter, winning is not the most important aspect of the games. She’s most excited the CHQ Olympics’ “community-building aspects.”
“I love the idea of these four teams bringing people together who may not know each other, who may not have spoken before coming to Chautauqua,” Porter said. “Incorporating new families to the Chautauqua experience, right away as soon as they jump in … those kinds of elements, I think, are going to be really fun this year.”
To register a team, visit chq.org/chq-olympics.