Britain Warns Its Olympic Team against Shaking Hands

April 23, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. dignitary (n) [dig-ni-ter-ee] – a person with a high position or rank
Example: Dignitaries attended the President’s party.

2.  infection (n.) [in-fek-shuhn] – the spread of a sickness from one person to another
Example: Children may get infection when playing with other sick children. 

3. hygiene (n.) [hahy-jeen] –habits or activities that maintain good health
Example: Regularly brushing your teeth is considered good hygiene.

4. etiquette (n.) [et-i-kit, -ket] – accepted rules of polite behavior
Example: In most culture, shaking hands is an important social etiquette.

5. mingle (v.) [ming-guhl] – to move around and talk to different people (usually in parties or meetings)
Example: A good party host must mingle with the guests and make everyone feel comfortable.

Read the text below.

The British Olympian Association (BOA) has advised British athletes to avoid shaking the hands of competitors and foreign dignitaries during this year’s Olympics.

Dr. Ian McCurdie, Chief Medical Officer of the BOA, cautions athletes about the importance of maintaining personal hygiene, especially hand hygiene, in order to avoid getting sick. He says that the Olympic Village, which will house the British team and athletes from 204 countries, is a good environment for the spread of infection.

While it may be a bit strange for British people to not greet others with a handshake, the BOA says athletes must take extra care not to catch infection. Dr. McCurdie stresses that even the tiniest feeling of discomfort could lead to a loss.

Winning less medals would be disappointing, especially since Britain aims to reach at least fourth place, as it did when the country won 47 medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

However, some believe the doctor’s advice is too extreme. British etiquette expert Liz Wyse worries that failing to respond to another person’s offer of a handshake could be seen as impolite by visiting dignitaries and Olympians.

Meanwhile, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) says U.S. athletes will not be told to avoid handshakes. According to the USOC, the Olympics is a chance for athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and mingle with fellow athletes from all over the world.

Viewpoint Discussion 
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you agree with the BOA’s advice to British athletes? Please explain your answer
·         What can be other ways for athletes to avoid getting sick during the games?

Discussion B

·         What social etiquette is unique to your culture?
·         How important are social greetings like shaking one’s hand or bowing?


April 23, 2012