Thursday, 5 July 2012

Sports That Aren't In The Olympics, But Should Be

The Olympics is just around the corner now, and everyone seems to be overexcited about Team GB's "Chances of Success". By this, I assume they mean our initially promising rounds, followed by disappointing placements of 4th and below in almost all events.

In case that prospect gets you down, here are some awesome sports, ancient and modern, that we don't hold as Olympic games, but perhaps we should do.

The Pankration

First up: pankration, a kind of ancient Greek UFC. It was a cross between  boxing and wrestling, where the only moves not allowed were biting and gouging your opponents eyes. As with all proper sports, pankration was supposedly invented by demi-gods. Theseus used his awesome pankration skills to defeat the Minotaur, and Heracles killed the Nemean Lion in much the same way. It probably arose sometime in the 7th century BC.
Two black figures on red vase background are wrestling. Both are naked, one is overpowering the other.
This is from a handy vase painting.

Pankration was more than just a wrestling competition however. Winners of the pankration were equivalent to modern day sporting heroes, and several of them passed into legend. Pankration was also used asn an essential part of hoplite training by the Spartans and later the Macedonian army.

The pankration continued to be popular after the conquest by Rome, and was a part of the Olympic games for about 1000 years, making it far more traditional than many of the sports we currently hold.

Chariot Racing

Switching to the Hippodrome, the Romans give us chariot racing. Obviously they weren't the only people in the ancient world to use chariots (in fact, they stopped using them for war in the Republic; when invading Britain in the 1st century BC, Caesar was amused that the Britons fielded chariots against him). However the Roman tradition is one of the better understood chariot racing traditions.

To give you some idea of the violence of a chariot race, here's a clip from Ben Hur in dazzling technicolour. The race itself starts around the two minute mark.

And then, I found a Yakety Sax version. Unfortunately, I do not have a transcript for this video.
At the Hippodrome in Rome, there were several major teams, all wearing specific colours (not unlike football teams). They would often compete for the services of a particularly skilled driver. Each colour often fielded more than one team per race. These teams would then work together to maximise the chances of a win for their colours. Each colour would also have a staunch following, who often wore the colour to races to show their support. It wasn't uncommon for violence to break out between different groups of supporters. I like to think of Roman chariot racing as a proto-Formula 1.

Gloucester Cheese Rolling

This is not an ancient sport. It might not even be a sport, but it looks horrifying, and totally amazing. All that happens is that a round cheese is thrown down a steep hill, and people chase after it. That's all.

Yes, the still from that video is a man in a mankini. I'm afraid I can't help that. No transcript is required for this video, as all that happens is people chasing cheese downhill.

But just look at their passion! This would also be excellent for our Olympics as all reasonable athletes would take one look at the hill and go "Err.... No, thanks, but I won't be entering this race", and we'd take gold every time.

The Great Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race

 I can't really believe this one exists, but it's on the internet, so it must do, right? Anyway, this one is supposedly the brain child of Simon Thackery, one of the organisers of The Shed in Malton.

Pretty much exactly as mad as it sounds: they make giant Yorkshire puddings, bake them, varnish them with yacht varnish and away you go.

Two children paddle down a river in two giant yorkshire puddings. Yes, really.
I don't know who this child is, but he's having a better childhood than I did. 

So, when Team GB have once again failed to live up to the hype, remember. We might have stood a bit of a chance if they'd included these sports. Maybe. 

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