Friday, June 15, 2012

The Other Oymmpics

RHYS BOWEN :In a month's time I'm going to the Olympics. A giant feast celebrating the best in English sports.. or is it? One of the sports that won't be appearing is Bog Snorkelling. Neither will Toe Wrestling, nor cheese rolling. I'm not making these up. They are real British sports. They have just held the World Bog Snorkelling Championship in Wales. The contestants swim through thick filthy water of a flooded peak bog breathing through a snorkel. It attracts over 200 competitors each year.

Actually sports like this will have a chance to shine on the world stage. They will be featured at the World Alternative Games, taking place at the same time as the Olympics in Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales. I bet it's easier to get tickets there.

Britain must have more silly sports than any other country I know. Where else would you find a pancake race, or a race carrying barrels of molten tar that would fry you to a crisp if they spilled over you?  Or the famous Gloucestershire cheese roll, where contestants roll an 8 lb wheel of Double Gloucester Cheese down a hill and attempt to catch it. This event has been going on for 200 years.

In fact most regions of Britain can claim their own "alternative" (and for alternative read silly) sports and games. Hedge jumping is one of my favorites. People find a wicked looking hedge and then attempt to throw themselves over it in a sort of Fosbury Flop. One contestant claimed he did better in "your basic crucifixion position."  Keen hedge jumpers have been known to skid to a halt, leap out of cars and hurls themselves over a nearby hedge. My friend Hannah Dennison wrote about this in one of her Vicky Hill novels. Great fun.

In the flatter parts of the East Coast there is dyke vaulting. Do not comment. Contestants run at the waterway with a pole, plant it and attempt to jump across, like a pole vault but horizontal. Most end up stuck in the mud with no dry way of escape.

My next Lady Georgie novel, The Twelve Clues of Christmas (due out in November) features a made up event called "The Lovey Chase." What is it? You'll have to read the book to find out.


  1. It is truly astonishing, the myriad ways human beings design to test themselves physically, isn't it? But the Goofy Olympics sounds almost as legitimate as some of the regular Olympic events.

    The ancient Greeks would never recognize how their humble footrace-to-the-death has morphed into a jillion dollar, every other year phantasmagoria!

  2. I'm sure ESPN is covering most of these silly sports now, Rhys. the network has become such an all-consuming maw ever demanding something new and sports-related that these would fit right in with some sports that have been created simply to fill those 24 hours a day on ESPN.

    Have wonderful fun at the Olympics!

  3. Would you expect anything less from the country that gave us the Ministry of Silly Walks?

    BTW, Bog snorkelling would be a good name for a rock band.

  4. I am rolling on the floor --- Hedge Jumping and Bog Snorkeling --- this is so funny!

    We went to one women’s gymnastics session when the Olympics were in Atlanta, Georgia . . . and getting tickets for the event was one of the most eye-opening, frustrating, terrifying experiences of my entire life. Long used to: call the theatre box office . . . reserve tickets . . . done, I expected much the same for what I viewed as a sporting event [albeit a big, important one, but still . . . .]

    So not true!

    Welcome to the world of ticket lotteries, all-day push the redial button on the phone to get through . . . result: tickets at almost $300.00 each. I'd made a promise to the girls, so I cringed, bought the tickets, and we went. A serendipity for all of that angst: we ended up with tickets that put us in the area the evening the women's team won their gold medal. Hope your time at the Olympics just is just as wonderful.

  5. Joan, this is my third olympics. In Los Angeles we just applied for tickets, got them and had lovely seats in the stadium. In Sydney we applied and got some of them.
    For this Olympics we put in for 5 days of swimming, 5 days of track, gymnastics, equestrian and got zero. Everyone in UK is grumbling that nobody has tickets to anything good.
    We did end up with tennis, badminton, women's soccer and water polo. But we drew the line at $500 to watch Michael Phelps swim up and down a couple of times!

  6. Oh, I can really understand drawing that line! In my naiveté about all of this, it had never occurred to me that there would be any difficulty attached to getting tickets and I had promised the girls we would go. So, cost notwithstanding, I was obligated . . . a promise made, after all, must be a promise kept. And getting to be in the arena to see the women’s team win the gold medal was sort of like our “reward” for all that we went through to get the tickets in the first place.

  7. I want to read that book. i love the eccentricity you describe. Fun for the participants, I guess.

  8. Very funny, Rhys! I love alternatives. Have you ever been over to Pasadena to see the Doo Dah Parade -alternative to the Rose Parade? My all-time favorite entry was always the Synchronized Marching Briefcase Drill Team.

  9. Reine--I saw a group once called the Menopausal Mammas or similar name. They did a marching routine and were hilarious.

  10. Gee, Rhys: "The Lovey Chase" - you must want our imaginations to work over-time until we can get our hands on that book and see what Lady Georgie is up to!

  11. Just after I read this I got on the elevator of my NYC building - we have only 60 apartments and the elevator holds 4 people. What should I see but a woman with one of your books!!! She was complimentary!! Notes from all over, as they say in The New Yorker!Thelma Straw, MWA-NY

  12. Chiming in late here - I HAD to add another quirky hobby from Devon, England - Worm Charming. I'm currently in the West Country and about to give it a go.
    And ... having had a sneak preview of The Twelve Clues of Christmas ... it's hilarious. One of your best, Rhys!