If you haven't had enough Olympics, head to Wales' smallest town, Llanwrtyd Wells, which will host the inaugural World Alternative Games August 17 - September 2. Some of the wackier tournaments include Worm Charming Chariot Racing, Bathtubbing Championship, Wife Carrying, Bog Snorkeling and the Man vs Horse Marathon.
Plucky Wales invented these games when it was announced that London would host the Olympics, deciding to host their own version of the Olympic Games; except, all normal events would be replaced by unrecognized events. As Llanwrtyd Wells is already known for some pretty bizarre events (a Bog Snorkeling Championship and Man vs Horse Marathon), it was decided to hold the games here.
The Alternative Games will begin with a quirky official opening ceremony in which the famous Llanwrtyd spring water will be carried by a chariot pulled by two mountain bikes, symbolic of the days Llanwrtyd Wells was famous as a spa town. And this being Wales, land of music, a more formal evening ceremony will include local male voice choirs and drum and bass music.
The events include:
Man v. Horse
Since 1980, the Man v. Horse Marathon has been an annual event in Wales. It began when the owner of the Neuadd Arms Hotel overheard a discussion between two men in the bar as to whether, over a significant distance, a man was equal to a horse. On the 25th anniversary of the first contest, Huw Lobb beat the first horse home in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 19 seconds. In 2007, two human competitors outpaced the first equine competitor by a full 11 minutes. The 22-mile course is slightly shorter than a traditional marathon but covers much rougher terrain. Relay teams of three people can enter as well.
Bog snorkeling, invented in Llanwrtyd Wells, is an event in which competitors don a mask or goggles, snorkel and flippers (no monofins allowed) and entrants have to snorkel two lengths of a specially dug out, 60-yard trench in a peat bog. Conventional swimming strokes are not allowed.
Celebrating the ancient Roman ritual, this is the world's only mountain bike chariot race with chariots made of steel and vulcanized rubber. Designed to be pulled by two mountain bikes, the winning team, composed of two riders and one charioteer, has to demonstrate exceptional skill and courage. The course winds around a lake, partially on tarmac road with speed bumps, and partly on rough track. Gold, silver and bronze prizes are awarded, as well as a prize for the best Roman costumes.
One of the quirkier events is the Wife Carrying contest, in which ladies are literally swept off their feet, a sport that originated in Finland centuries ago. Legend has it that a bandit led teams of men to steal women from neighboring villages. As the damsels in distress refused to go willingly, they were carried off. The bandit made the men prove their worth by showing how fast they could run while carrying a woman; the fastest carriers were allowed to join his gang.
World Worm Championship
The World Worm Championship, which has taken place since 1980, is a contest in which over a 30-minute duration, competitors "charm" worms out of a 10-foot square area. The one who charms the most worms to the surface wins. (The present World Record is 567 worms collected in 30 minutes). The charmed worms are then released after the birds have gone to roost on the evening of the event.
In this event, contestants wrestle in a pool full of gravy for two-minute bouts, scored by audience applause based on their various moves. Men and women do not compete against one another, though all contestants are encouraged to wear fancy dress. Points are added to the score for take downs, escapes, reversals, falls or near falls and fun factor. Points are deducted for serious aggressiveness, roughness or unsportsmanlike behavior whilst wrestling.
Backward running, also known as reverse running and retro running has actual health benefits. Research has shown that backward running is excellent for reducing the risk of knee injury and is said to help alleviate back problems,
This 60-yard race is done in high-heeled shoes. Racers must provide their own shoes, which must have heels a minimum of three inches and a heel base maximum of one quarter of an inch across. Boots are not allowed, only open shoes. Oh, and yes, men are permitted to compete.
Office Chair Slalom
For those who are used to moving around their office peddling their feet on a wheeled chair, in these Games, chair racing is a sport. Competitors sit on their chair and, using their feet, propel themselves over the course. Chairsters must remain seated at all times. There are two rounds, and the fastest accumulated time is declared the winner.
The World Alternative Games are set to become the biggest event in Wales in 2012. Everyone taking part in an event will get a Corinthian medal. It's not too late to register for the games. To learn more, go to: http://www.visitwales.com/2012
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