After an eccentric, anarchic and fairly bizarre opening ceremony to the London Olympics, the actual games are the usual sober events where competitors strive to go faster, higher and farther than ever before. This is all well and good, but wouldn’t it be great if the Olympics included some of the more bizarre sporting events from around the world that would liven up what can all too often be a rather dour two weeks of sport?
Of course, the Olympics do boast a few eccentric events. Race-walking, for instance, see competitors compete at is the fastest at waddling like a duck. Triple jump too is rather peculiar. While you can see how many of the Olympiad sports developed with the need for the ancient Greeks to run, jump and throw military weapons, when did they ever have to hop, skip, and jump? However, even these eccentric events are rather bland in comparison to some of the more bizarre sports from around the world.
Man versus horse
While the world’s fastest runners line up to take on Usain Bolt over the hundred meters, at least they know Bolt is only human. However, in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, a few hundred miles from the London Olympic stadium, a rather more stern challenge awaits local runners. The annual Man Versus Horse Marathon pits human contestants against horses. While this may sound one sided, in its 32-year history, two humans have actually triumphed and beat the horses over the 22-mile cross-country course.
The event dates back to 1980, when the landlord of the local pub wanted to settle a drunken dispute between two men, who argued whether or not a human could ever beat a horse over a long distance run. The landlord decided to settle the argument and arranged the first race. Since then, it has attracted runners and horses from all over the world; all attempting to get their hands and hooves on the £25,000 ($31,700) cash prize.
If you have ever told your wife or girlfriend to get off your back, you probably won’t be any good at wife carrying. Now a popular event in Wisconsin and Michigan, it has its roots in Finland, where wife carrying has been going on for over a hundred years. Originally, thought to have developed from wife stealing, where young men would creep into neighboring villages and make off with other people’s wives, it is now taken rather seriously, with strict rules governing the sport.
Competitors can carry their female teammate on their backs, piggyback style, or upside down with the woman’s legs clasped around their necks in what is referred to as: “Estonian style” (one can only wonder at what people get up to in Estonia). The runners have to carry their “wives” over a distance of 253 meters, negotiating obstacles, in a similar fashion to the modern steeplechase. Such is the seriousness and competitiveness of the event, the wives are even handicapped with weights if they fall short of the prescribed 49 kgs.
When JK Rowling first penned the Harry Potter novels, should could hardly imagine that the magical game of Quidditch would one day become an popular sport governed by an international sporting body and played in over 200 colleges up and down America.
Muggle Quidditch has become incredibly popular since it was first created in 2005. Of course, being Muggles, players are unable to swoop around the Quidditch pitch on magical broomsticks. However, rules still stipulate they have to carry a broom between their legs at all times. The International Quidditch Association has even lobbied the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to include Quidditch as an Olympic sport. It is doubtful if their request will ever be granted, but stranger things have happened.
Shin Kicking Championship
Taekwondo has been a recognized Olympic sport since the 2000 Sydney Games. However, if you find raising your leg above your head a bit too strenuous, you could always try the less acrobatic but rather more brutal art of shin kicking. A popular pastime in the British Cotswolds, the World Shin Kicking Championship draws thousands of spectators each year, who watch in awe as combatants, all dressed in white coats, kick lumps out of each other’s legs.
The rules are fairly simple. Players have to clutch an opponent’s collar, with the loser being the one who releases their grasp first. Traditionally, shin kickers wore steel toe-capped boots, but in the modern world of health and safety, soft shoes and straw stuffed down the pant legs prevent too many injuries.
Lydia Mitchell is a former Staten Island resident who has found herself, alone and scared, in the heart of London. As well as writing on behalf of numerous companies, she’s also an amateur photographer and dabbles in interior design.