I'm not gonna lie–being in charge of coming up with ice breakers/fun activities can really suck. It's hard to find something that will make everyone feel comfortable, have fun, and be meaningful and memorable. It seemed like a curse, until I got to know the best ice breaker/activity/party game EVER–the Olympics!
What are the Olympics?
The Olympics is a game for a large group of people (16-80), which is almost like a tournament (like the real Olympics!) with a series of different events/challenges. Participants are split up at random into equal teams and participate in the challenges as teams. The whole game is made of up improvisational comedy skits, somewhat like Comedy Sportz. The host describes each challenge one at a time to all of the teams. For each challenge there is a certain time limit that they have to prepare before the competition starts. After the time is up, all of the teams come back and sit/stand in their spaces of the room and then each team performs their challenge in front of everyone. One of the coolest aspects of this game is that everyone is both a participant and part of the audience.
**If you're looking for a shorter activity, borrow one or two of the challenges described below!
Every time I've been a part of the game it has been an amazing experience! I've played the game once, and hosted it twice. The time I actually played it was with non-Muslims at my college orientation, and this is where I got the idea from. The first time I hosted the Olympics, it was for the College Day that the Muslim students at my university hosted for local high school Muslim students. The second time I hosted the Olympics, it was at the weekend long winter retreat that the Muslim student organization holds every year. *Based on my experiences from the 2 I hosted (College Day & Retreat), I am going to be adding little tips/pointers you can use for your own Olympics, inshā'Allāh!
Here's how it works!
What kind of gathering can this event work for? Retreats, conferences, youth groups, bridal showers, random parties, etc.
What you'll need:
- Large, relatively sound-proof room (it gets LOUD!)
- 1-2 hours (depending on number of teams and number of challenges)
- (Maybe) slips of paper/marker for assigning teams different things for challenges
This game is GREAT for teens/young adults, and who knows, maybe even the aunties and uncles would enjoy it! I've played/hosted with high school and college students, and with all girls. I think this game would also be good for the brothers.
- 4-12 people per team. *Ideal number: 5-8 people per team, 4-5 teams.
- The more teams you have, the longer it will take for all the teams to perform their challenges. *At College Day, there were 80 participants and 7 teams. **At the Retreat, there were about 18 participants and 4 teams.
- Randomly assign teams, counting people off is the easiest way to do it. *For the College Day Olympics, before breaking them up into smaller teams, I split up the sisters into 2 large groups (one with all of the college student volunteers and the other will all of the high school attendees). So the teams were either made up of all college volunteers or all high school students. I did this for many reasons, some of which are: it was a nice break for the volunteers, the high school students were forced to take over their teams and to get to know one another, and to create a fun rivalry between the college students vs. high school students. The rivalry got pretty intense and really helped create incredible amounts of energy and it was extremely effective in getting everyone excited about the games.
- Assign themes to each team. Depending on the event/party/gathering, you can have the team themes match the theme of the larger event! The theme becomes the “team name.” Get the teams to incorporate their team name/theme into their challenges. *At the Retreat, our team themes were “nature” since we were in a campsite in the mountains. There were 4 teams, so I gave them the 4 elements: water, air, fire, and earth. An easy go-to theme idea is animals, especially funny/exotic animals (which is what I used at College Day). Get creative and have fun with the team names! **I would suggest NOT to let the teams pick their own team names, it'll get disorderly and complicated fast!
Host: There is one host for the Olympics. This person should be able to hype everyone up and set the tone at the beginning. As much as the host has to create energy, it's equally as important that the host is also able to control the energy and command attention (the game gets rowdy and crazy fast). The host's duties include: explaining the rules of each challenge, keeping the challenges to their time limits and giving teams warnings about time, being the “emcee,” and scoring (if you decide to score). *If you have a lot of people in the Olympics, it's best to have an assistant/co-host, it makes for easier crowd control. I had a co-host at the College Day Olympics, with 80 people playing the help was desperately needed!
Schedule of Events: You can customize the Olympics to your own games! This is a rough sequence of events as a guideline for you own: Opening Ceremony, Team Chant/Dance, <2-4 Challenges>, Host's Challenge, Closing Ceremony.
*In the College Day Olympics, it was: Opening Ceremony, Team Chant/Dance, Re-Take, Infomercial, Proposals, and Closing Ceremony. **In the Retreat Olympics, it was: Opening Ceremony, Team Chant/Dance, Re-Take, Informercial, Music Video, Impressions, and Closing Ceremony.
Time Limits: The harder/more involved the challenge is, the more time there should be for the teams to prepare. The host can decide to extend time for some challenges, depending on whether it seems as if teams need it or if teams ask for more time. If you're not running short on time, feel free to extend time for 1-5 minutes. I've included suggested time limits for each challenge.
Time: Keep in mind that each challenge can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes from start to finish, so keep that in consideration when you're coming up with your series of challenges!
The Title: You can call your event “the Olympics,” or you can try to incorporate something related to the event/organization you're working with into the phrase. Get creative! *At College Day, the organization hosting the event was called “Al Kalima,” so I named the game “AlK-olympics.” **At the Retreat, I named the game the “Winter Retreat Olympics.”
- Opening Ceremony: The host splits up all participants into groups and explains how the Olympics work–There are a series of challenges that every team will have to participate in. After each challenge is explained, the teams are given a certain amount of time to prepare. After that time is up, all the teams come back and perform their challenge.–Be sure to lay down the rules: the Olympics will be being scored and teams will lose points for unruly behavior, breaking time limits, and etc. (this helps to keep order and have the Olympics moving along at a good pace) *You can chose whether you want to REALLY keep score and name a winner or not. I would suggest to NOT keep score, but just fool everyone and make it seem like you are keeping score.
- Team Chant/Dance: This is ALWAYS the first challenge since it is the team's chance to introduce themselves. The team is assigned their team name and then given 3-5 minutes to come up with a 30 second team chant/cheer, accompanied by a signature team move. After the time limit is up, call all teams back to their spots and have each team come up to the middle of the room to perform their chant. This chant/move is meant to carry on throughout the whole game, so when the teams feel excited or are about to perform/have just finished with their challenge, they can go around yelling their chants and doing their signature moves.
The Middle Events: You can chose 2-4 of these challenges, depending on how much time you have. You can also come up with some of your own, and feel free to put as many twists on these as you want! The point of these games is to get ALL of the players on each team to perform in the challenge.
- Re-Take: This is a challenge is creating a 3 minute skit which is a “halal-i-fied/Islam-i-fied” parody of a movie. You can choose a movie, story, etc. The host will assign movies to each team (think of these before time). Suggested time limit: 10 minutes.
- Infomercial: The host collects random objects from the room. The challenge is for each team to come up with a creative use for this object and then to sell you the object by coming up with a 2-3 minute infomercial. You can ask them to incorporate their team name/come up with an Islamic use for the object. *Out of all of the challenges, this one is my absolute favorite and a MUST for all Olympics!! Best one came from the Retreat Olympics—ice cream scoop turned into a fish-o-meter, a device for you to check up on your pet fish while you're away.
- Music Video: (Half of you just thought—Astaghfirullahul adheem! Ya haraam!! Hahaha!) The teams are given 10 minutes to parody a song and come up with their own lyrics and a “music video.” You can give them something to parody, something that all of you are familiar with/work with. *For the Retreat Olympics, I had the teams parody things/events from MSU, such as: general assembly meetings, chai nights (weekly sisters' social), hijab day, and our annual welcome banquet. It was hilarious, and the ultimate source of inside jokes! **I didn't use this challenge in the College Day Olympics. Regardless of all of the different rulings on listening to music, I felt like it was important for us as college students to set a higher standard for the high school students, and maybe doing this sort of challenge would make us flawed role-models and encourage/normalize the high schoolers to listen to music, wAllahualim.
- Fashion Show: The teams are forced to come up with their signature look for one of their team members using all the clothes that they have on them. Give them 5 minutes to prepare, then it's time for the show. Have all of the models line up and hit the cat walk. There can also be a designer from the same team who will explain the model's look. *If you're sisters—make sure you're in a secure location. **You can also give them something like toilet paper or newspaper (this sort of game is popular at bridal showers).
The Host's Challenge: It's finally time for the host to get in on the action! These challenges aim to make fun of the host in a light-hearted way…what an honor! It's a way of the participants to get back at the host who hasn't had to perform anything the whole time. They finally get to embarrass the host after all of the embarrassment they've suffered. Only have 1 of these challenges, otherwise it's overkill. See if you can come up with another one of your own!
- Proposals: Each team has to come up with the perfect proposal for the host, the prospective bride/groom. If the host is a hostess, she can be the prospective bride, but don't forget to have her accompanied by her “wali” (played by a random sister). If the host is a brother…I guess he can either be the prospective groom OR the wali of a “single sister” (played by a random brother). The teams have 3 minutes to come up with the best proposal. It can be one proposal, or a series of proposals (I think one is best). Give the teams freedom to do whatever they want. So there could be just one person from each team, or even the whole team. The host has to play along with whatever the teams come up with and interact with the suitor. *This is a good challenge if the players don't know the host well/at all. If the players are relatively familiar-really know the host, it's a great way of poking fun at them.
- Impressions: Each team has 3 minutes to come up with the best impression of the host. This gets funny fast, and if you're the host, be warned!! Once again, this challenge can incorporate 1 person or the whole team. The host doesn't necessarily act/play along with the performance, he/she just sits and watches. *This is a great challenge if the players know the host well. I had this challenge at the Retreat Olympics, since we all knew each other pretty well. This challenge was so hilarious, one of the girls watching actually fell over onto the floor into a sideways sajdah.
Closing Ceremony: It's time to wrap up the Olympics! This is a great time for the host to share a quick khatirah/reflection on everything that just went down. You can choose to actually go through with scoring, but it's best to not score the games and say “everyone's a winner” amidst groans of disappointment from the players. By making everyone think that they're being scored, it motivates everyone to perform their best. By not actually scoring, it keeps everyone happy and doesn't create fitna.
Results of the Olympics: bonding, strengthening brotherhood/sisterhood, team-building, good communication, showcasing everyone's talents, making everyone feel comfortable, having fun and letting go, including everyone, ultimate source of inside jokes, and endless laughs.
I hope you all will play the Olympics at your next event! I pray that it inshā'Allāh will benefit all participants and that it's a great way for everyone to bond. Please hit up the comments with ideas for challenges that can be incorporated into the Olympics as well!! I'm always looking for new games to try!
Please keep the people of Egypt in your prayers!