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Top 10 Weird Sports (continued…)

Okay, we won’t keep you in suspense anymore. Here’s the second half of the top 10 wackiest and weirdest sports…

(And don’t forget to click on the pics for action videos.)

5. Bog snorkelling

Started in Wales in (surprise surprise) the Seventies, supposedly as a result of a conversation in a pub (as most new sports probably are), bog snorkelling involves racing through a flooded trench dug into a peat bog about 60 yards long, and then racing back again. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Competitors must wear a snorkel and flippers and aren’t allowed to try to swim. Wetsuits are not mandatory, but are probably advisable.bog

4. Cheese rolling

cheese-rolling-raceA round of Double Gloucester cheese is given a one second head start down Cooper’s Hill in the Cotswolds. Hundreds of people charge down after it. The winner is the first one to the bottom of the hill, or the person who catches up with the cheese. But seeing as it reaches speeds of up to 70mph, that never happens. The prize is the cheese, and international fame. You might not want the cheese, given where it’s been. In 1993, 15 people were injured, 4 of them seriously. Organisers received death threats in 2011 after trying to charge a high entry fee, supposedly to try and reduce the number of competitors to comply with the health and safety laws that saw the 2010 event cancelled.

 3. Running of the bulls

Because as every real man knows, it ain’t a real sport unless something bleeds. Made famous by Ernest Hemingway, with the encierro at Pamplona in Spain now the best known, bull-running involves penning a bunch of bulls in the streets and then letting them run wild whilst a bunch of idiot humans run in front of them and try to avoid getting gored. The path leads to the bull-ring, where the bulls are tortured until they collapse the following day whilst the same idiot humans whoop and cheer. Over a dozen of these idiot humans have been killed by the bulls at Pamplona in the last century. The heart bleeds. Theirs, mainly. Ours, only sarcastically.

bull running

 2. Tossing the caber

tossing_caberPerhaps the most emblematic event of the Highland Games, tossing the caber secretly impresses us weedy Sassenachs, but it still amounts to chucking a bit of a tree around. The caber is typically an almost-20ft-long pole made of larch that weighs about 80kg. The aim of tossing it is not just to achieve distance, but to have it land perfectly. The top of the caber should land nearest to the thrower, so the caber can’t just be pushed up into the air and allowed to fall. Ideally it should come to lie at exactly twelve o’clock to the thrower. He loses points the further it lands from this sweetspot, and if the caber doesn’t turn over in the air. The person throwing the caber is called a tosser. No comment.

 1. Chess boxing

But surely the weirdest sport currently played is chess boxing. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Competitors play six rounds of chess in the ring, interspersed with five rounds of boxing – if both competitors last that long. Having the strongest fist won’t necessarily secure victory here. Competitors need to be equally skilled with their knights and bishops, because chess boxing matches can be won either way. The sport is currently enjoying an explosion in popularity, though the first proper matches weren’t held until 2003. Interestingly, chess boxing first appeared in 1992 – in the pages of a comic book. Islington Boxing Club

Guest post by Jonathan Eyers. Follow his blog at

Top 10 Weird and Wacky Sports

We freely admit in Team Sport at Bloomsbury that we’ve published a fair few books on a plethora of sports from around the world, and there’s plenty more in the offing. But we got a-thinking about what weird and wacky sports there were out there. We may not be planning to publish books about them, but here’s our resident satirical sports-writer, Jonathan Eyers with a list of his top 10 weird ‘sports’.

(And click on the images if you want to see some of these crazy sports in action.)


10. Cup stacking

Almost exclusively a pastime of preteen Americans, this ‘sport’ involves laying out rows of plastic cups, stacking more rows on top of them, and then dismantling the stacks again – all as quickly and as accurately as possible. Penalties for knocking over your stack include death (not really). Clearly America will make a competition out of anything, including preparing their kids for careers in the service industry. Incidentally, competitive eating (surely also the sole preserve of Americans) would be at number 11 on this list.

Cup stacking

9. Birdman rallies

ico-birdman1They might call these eccentric/embarrassing (delete as appropriate) spectacles Flugtags now to try and convince the world they are a German invention, but the first birdman rally was held in Britain in 1971. Actually, it’s not hard to imagine the grey-faced, red-flared, Seventies breed of Brit showing up to watch someone throw themselves off the pier, given the mass unemployment, three-day week, power outages and regular strikes. As with everything else, some people take it all far too seriously, and the most hardcore of enthusiasts can reach over 100ft in their human-powered craft. Points are won both for distance and entertainment value. A bit like boxing.

8. Kabaddi

Kabaddi is the Tamil word for ‘holding hands’, but the key thing about this 4,000-year-old sport from the Indian subcontinent is actually holding your breath. Described by some as a bizarre mix of wrestling and rugby (without a ball), it sounds more like one of those games we played as kids that involved charging at each other. Two teams of seven take turns to be on the offensive and defensive. Each controls half the court. The team on the offensive sends a raider onto the other side of the court to knock out (not literally) as many opponents as he can. The catch is that the raider must hold his breath until he is back on his own side, and the defenders will be doing everything they can to stop him getting there before he runs out of air.


7. Wife-carrying

This bizarre sport originated in Finland, which holds the international championships every year. Male competitors must carry their wives over a 253.5m obstacle course, and the winning couple is the one that finishes it in the fastest time. Fortunately for those husbands whose wives are not enthusiastic about being heaved through the mandatory pool of water, it doesn’t have to be your own wife. However, she must weigh at least 49kg, or she has to wear a rucksack for added weight. Wives can be carried piggyback, over the shoulder or ‘Estonian style’ – the wife hangs upside down with her legs over her husband’s shoulders whilst she holds onto his waist. All other sports could learn one thing from wife-carrying – the official rules require all competitors to enjoy themselves.


 6. Ferret legging

ferret legging Another product of the Seventies (remember, they didn’t have the internet and there were only three TV channels back then), this endurance sport came from Yorkshire, where it was popular with coal miners. Its popularity has waned in recent years, perhaps because it’s considered slightly cruel to trap two live ferrets down an old bumpkin’s trousers for five and a half hours (the world record). Winning at ferret-legging simply entails not letting the things out before any of your fellow competitors. The former world champion used to wear white trousers to better show off all the blood that the biting, scratching beasts extracted from his legs and… other places. They sure don’t breed ’em like that down here in’t south.

To be continued …

A Veritable Decathlon of Sports Films

Guest post by Jonathan Eyers

Good sports movies are few and far between. For every Caddyshack there are a dozen Mike Bassett: England Managers. But they do keep churning them out. In the last ten years there have been no fewer than three table tennis movies, and a glut of lacrosse movies too. On the flipside, it’s high time for another bowls movie, because it’s been a decade since the last one. Whilst we’re waiting for that one, here’s a rundown of what must surely rank as the top ten greatest sports-related movies of all time. So incontrovertible is this list, in fact, that we might not even bother to leave the comments open at the end.

10. Field of Dreams

In A Beautiful Mind the voices tell Russell Crowe that he can break Soviet encryption codes and he gets committed for it. In Field of Dreams the voices tell Kevin Costner to build a baseball field and everybody just goes along with it. It’s hard not to be cynical about a movie that ends with you introducing your dead dad to your kids before running off to play catch with his ghost.

9. Cool Runnings

Such a splendidly triumphant movie about complete and utter failure that when it first came out the Daily Mail review supposedly questioned whether British bobsledders had been changed into Jamaicans (because of political correctness, of course). And yes, everyone misses John Candy, but what would he be doing if he was still around? He’d have had a gastric band inserted and married Lindsay Lohan, that’s what.

8. Fever Pitch

Nick Hornby’s novel was filmed twice within the space of ten years, one starring rent-a-drip (sorry, rent-a-dripping-shirt) Colin Firth, about Arsenal doing all right in the late 80s, and the other starring some American, about the Boston Red Sox. A baseball team. It is directed by the geniuses behind Dumb and Dumber, with a script written by a man whose pen name is Babaloo. Stick with the British version.

7. The Damned United

Shockingly, Michael Sheen doesn’t play Tony Blair for the fourth (fifth?) time in this fictionalised version of Brian Clough’s time at Leeds United in the mid Seventies. He spends most of his time attacking his own team, his own team spend most of the time attacking him, and then he gets booted out. Actually, maybe Sheen is playing Blair again after all.

6. Jerry Maguire

Slightly less plausible than Field of Dreams, this one sees Tom Cruise’s agent develop a conscience and walk out of his lucrative career because he doesn’t like how big business has corrupted sport. He’s followed by a desperate single mother with a weird-faced kid and they all go on to make millions of dollars for Cuba Gooding Jr. But this money is good money, unlike the other money, which was bad money. You had me at vomit.

5. Raging Bull

Watching many of Martin Scorsese’s films feels like being punched in the head for three hours, so here you can enjoy a little postmodern thumping watching Robert de Niro bleed in glorious black and white instead.

4. Million Dollar Baby

Clint Eastwood not only produced, directed, starred and wrote the music for this bleak boxing drama, he also made the sandwiches for everyone on set. Nice guy. He’s not in the sequel, which got released direct to DVD and starred Angela Lansbury and Dick van Dyke as two amateur detectives (one a writer, the other a doctor) who get together to investigate the murder of a young female boxer. They pin it on Morgan Freeman, but he’s not in it either.

3. Rocky

Followed by more sequels than Friday the 13th (Rocky 7 will apparently see a reincarnated half-cyborg version of Signor Balboa going up against killer boxing robots on a space station in the far future too), it’s often easy to forget the original was classic feel-good schlock for men. Apparently Adrian was originally going to be played by Dustin Hoffman.

2. Chariots of Fire

Rowan Atkinson’s interpretation aside, the famous Vangelis theme is now hated by everyone who had to go to the London Olympics and got stuck behind someone who thought they were not only being very funny but also highly original when they started walking in slow motion whenever the theme started being piped over the loudspeakers. That doesn’t detract from the film, however, which is protected by a law banning dislike of it throughout England and Scotland.

1. Surf Nazis Must Die

Good surfing films are rare, so this luminous assault on the modernist idea of the city, depicting what happens along the Californian coast after a major earthquake, is an underrated classic. It’s also a poignant allegory for the rise of the Third Reich as prescient as Brecht’s Arturo Ui. Critics are divided over whether the bereaved grandmother who escapes her nursing home to seek revenge on the Surf Nazis with guns and hand grenades represents a complacent British Empire or isolationist America. Perhaps it is testament to the film’s depths that it can be seen to represent both.

This is a guest post and views expressed here are entirely of the author, and can largely be considered tongue-in-cheek.

The Ancient Olympics laid bare…

The tittering schoolboy version of the history of the Olympic Games would have us believe the Ancient Greeks used to strip naked, oil themselves up and then fight to the death in a stadium at Olympia. And believe them we should, because there’s an element of truth to all of that. London’s Olympic Games in 2012 might have billions of spectators (if only thanks to television), but the Ancient Olympic Games of 776BC onwards make Seb Coe’s pet project look decidedly staid.

The Ancient Olympics was originally established as a religious festival to worship the mightiest of Greek gods, Zeus. A colossal statue of him, built to preside over the stadium, was later designated one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Only Greeks were allowed to participate. After all, everyone else was a barbarian. This didn’t change for 500 years, until the Roman Empire conquered Greece, stomped its collective feet and demanded their own supermen be allowed to join in.

Naturally only men could compete. Some women were allowed into the stadium to watch, but only if they weren’t married or betrothed (which was probably for the best, given the Team Greece kit – see below).

Originally the Games only lasted for a single day, but then, they only consisted of a single event – the stadion race. This was a short sprint of about 700ft, which was the length of the stadium (the word ‘stadium’ actually having come from the name of the race). Eventually the Ancient Olympics were extended to five days and incorporated multiple events. Most fell by the wayside in the intervening 1,500 years between the Ancient and Modern Olympic Games (most lamentably chariot racing), but the javelin and discus have both remained staple events, whilst others have evolved.

The stadion race

In case modern boxing isn’t brutal enough, the boxers of the Ancient Olympics could weight their hard leather hand coverings with metal for extra pain infliction. There weren’t any rules against hitting a competitor when he was down either. Matches had no rest periods and no time limits – they went on until one of the men gave up, or died. Killing your opponent was not advised, however, because the dead guy automatically won the contest.

Pankration is another event that has disappeared from the schedules. Worryingly there would probably be plenty who would relish the chance to bring this fighting sport back, but health and safety officials would never allow it. The rules of pankration were quite simple. No eye gouging. No biting. And that was it. Spleen-rupturing kicks to the belly were allowed. Choke holds were recommended. Digging thumbs into your opponent’s trachea was an acceptable winning move. Elements of pankration have made it into mixed martial arts, but that pales in comparison on the violence front.

The more cynical amongst us might take a bemused look at Stella McCartney’s kit for British competitors and suggest the Ancient Greeks did it better when they competed in their birthday suits. However, nudity was not in fact the official uniform of the Ancient Olympics for the first 50 years, only being introduced by decree in 720BC. The Games were partly about celebrating the human body, after all. Competitors would rub olive oil over their bodies, both for cleaning and aesthetic purposes. Only in one event was anyone allowed to wear clothes – the armoured race. But even then, the only armour they could wear was a helmet and shin guards. There was still plenty of flesh flapping around in the sun. Interestingly, the word ‘gynasium’ comes from ‘gymnos’ – the Greek word for ‘nude’.

Team Greece kit

There were no gold, silver or bronze medals for the winners in the Ancient Olympics, just a crown made from an olive wreath, along with an olive branch and supplies of more olive oil. Bertolli, sponsors of the original 776BC Olympic Games, continue to prosper to this day, apparently.

Unfortunately it all came to an end in AD393 (or AD435, depending upon whose version of history you would shed blood over) when the Roman Emperor Theodosius I (or II, depending upon – etc, etc) embraced Christianity and banned the whole thing for being just a little too pagan for Jesus. It wasn’t until 1896 that the ancient ideal of an international celebration of sporting prowess was born again, but that’s another story altogether.

By guest author – Jonathan Eyers (If you fancy checking out any of Jonathan’s other musings, his blog is


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