As the Olympic Games draw closer, the preparation to host twenty-six different Olympic sports is ramping up. It made us wonder: what other great sports should London play host to? We’ve taken a look at some of Britain’s most curious sporting events – here are five that we think are worthy of adoption.
1) Cheese rolling
The sport: A wheel of cheese is sent hurtling down Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire. Teams of men and women then throw themselves after it at great speed, in an attempt to catch it first.
The appeal: If you only watch sports for the accidents and crashes, then you’ll love cheese rolling, a sport that consists entirely of accidents and crashes. And cheese. (Photos here)
Where in London: We’ll need a hill of sufficiently dangerous gradient. The slopes of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich might do, and we could always add a few tons of grease to speed things up.
If not: Gloucester Council have deemed the event too deadly to officially permit – but the locals carry on the tradition anyway. Take that, health & safety! This year, it’s on Monday June 4.
2) Massively multiplayer ballgames
The sport: The town’s populace divides into two teams, a ball is released in the centre of said town, and then each team tries to drive the ball towards a goal on the opposing edge of town – by any means necessary. Play consists of grinding, hundred-person scrums, and is punctuated by frantic stampedes.
The appeal: The game swallows the sportsman/spectator divide, rams hundreds of people into it, and sends it to A&E with minor crushing injuries – a truly participatory phenomenon where everyone has a chance to play their part. It’s a chance to help Londoners blow off some steam, unite communities, and finally settle that whole North/South thing.
Where in London:We all know the City gets awfully quiet on the weekend – where better to host a lively game of one million players strong? South goal: The Thames. North goal: Regent’s Canal. To accommodate the crowds, play should include incorporate several balls at once, giving participants an extra chance to get a piece of the action. This is guaranteed to make the London Marathon look like a walk in the park.
If not: Variations on the theme include Shrovetide Football in Ashbourne, Derbyshire (pictured), which takes place the day before Shrove Tuesday; the forthcoming Bottle-Kicking in Hallaton on Easter Monday, and further north, the several Ba Games of Scotland.
3) Shin Kicking
The sport: Two opponents kick each other’s shins, until one of them falls over.
The appeal: The excruciating pain inflicted enshrines Shin Kicking as the martial art for the Jackass demographic. Hailing from a rich heritage of futile, schoolyard machismoffs – ‘Stampyfinger’, ‘Eyepoke’, ‘Scrotepunch’ – it proves that anything repeated for long enough can acquire the rosy, cosy aura of tradition, no matter how mindsplinteringly stupid it may be. And if you think that’s harsh, bear in mind that ‘historically, some shin-kickers have tried to build pain tolerance by hitting their own shins with hammers.’ Never mind a glimpse of the future; if you want a picture of Merrie Olde England, imagine men hammering their own shins, trying to build pain tolerance… for
ever four centuries.
If not: The World Shin-Kicking Championships is part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games, Friday June 1. They’re celebrating their 400th birthday, so bring cake. And shin pads.
4) Bog Snorkelling
The sport: Competitiors take turns to snorkel through a bog, attempting to be the fastest to do so. Swampy!
The appeal: The mind boggles. Londoners should excel at this, as they often rely on a tube to go a fairly short distance. (Sorry.)
Where in London: The London Wetlands Centre, Hammersmith, might have a sufficiently swampy spot…
If not: The World Bog Snorkelling Championships are part of the World Alternative Games, starting August 17 in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales.
The sport: Two pugilist chessplayers duel in alternating rounds of traditional boxing and speed chess. Victory is claimed via knockout, checkmate, judges’ decision, or by your opponent running out of time on the chess clock.
The appeal: Like the salty-sweet genius of chocolate coated pretzels (remember them?) or the charms of an unlikely mashup, Chessboxing is a triumphant juxtaposition, an ode to the ying-yang of warfare: strategic foresight vs punching someone in the face. Sun Tzu would be proud. Ladies in the audience might appreciate the guaranteed combination of brains and brawn on display – or as our blogmistress puts it, ‘men who can fight with their minds and think with their fists.’ Sexy.
Where in London: Wait a second… this really is happening in London! Tomorrow (Saturday March 10)! At the Scala! See our listing for details.
If not: You can take up the sport yourself, training at London’s own chessboxing club, every Saturday in Islington. Or you could set out to invent a sport of your own. Judo Ludo? Cluedo-Roman Wrestling? Tae-Kwonnect 4? The possibilities are endless. Guy Parsons