Six Alternative Olympic Sports We Wish We Could Watch Instead

By Jacob Lewis on at

Tired of the corporate love-in; security fears and traffic chaos of the London Olympics, but just really love sport? We're in the same boat, so put together a list of alternative British Olympic events for you to enjoy this summer. There's a shin-kicking, welly-wangin', cheese-rolling world of sport out there, so it's easy to create your own bonkers Olympics this weekend.


Welly Wanging


Image credit: robertandamanda from Flickr

The verb "to wang" means to lob or throw a Wellington boot, and was invented in the delightfully-named village of Upperthong.

Welly-wangers hurl a Wellington boot as far as possible within boundary lines, onto the playing area or 'thong' from a standing or running start. A variation of the sport requires participants to launch the welly from the end of their foot, as if kicking off a pair of shoes.

Local legend has it that the sport began when a pint of ale was spilt into a farmer's Wellington boot. The enraged farmer chased the offending ale-pourer around the pub, but coming upon the realisation that he was never going to catch the git, he made sporting history with the decision to wang his sodden welly right at the man. The event caused quite a stir in the sleepy village of Upperthong, and locals began re-enacting the wanging with such enthusiasm that it soon developed into a pub competition, and from there a world-renowned athletic discipline. [Upperthong Village]


Shin Kicking

The other name for shin kicking is "purring," yeah, just like what a cat does. I know. What a deceitful name for a horrible sport. Someone must have thought that if they called it "shin kicking," it sounded a bit rough and wouldn't catch on, so they named it after something cute a cat does. They could call it fluffy-rainbow-happy-game and I still wouldn't get involved, let me tell you.

To play, you just grab your opponent by the collar and start viciously kicking until someone falls over. That's it. The main skill needed here is just the ability to withstand pain (with a little bit of agility thrown in), but it pretty much boils down to one person coping the best with having the crap kicked out of his legs.

This bloody stupid game martial art originated in England in the early 17th century,and was even brought over to America by migrants as reported in the New York Times in 1883, but for some reason it never caught on over there. Maybe because they're inexplicably allowed guns. [Huffington Post]


Cheese Chasing

The 200-year-old Gloucestershire cheese race involves a marauding wave of mad Gloucestershire men and women throwing themselves down an absurdly steep hill in pursuit of a bouncing wheel of cheese. The loopy locals briefly sprint, then trip, then tumble towards their cheesy prize (or death) at literal breakneck speeds that would make Usain Bolt jealous (and nervous). For an idea of how steep the hill is, imagine a group of people throwing themselves down a huge set of stairs, and you're beginning to get there.

The winner is technically the one who catches the cheese first, but nowadays, just making it across the finish line alive and in front is enough to be awarded with victorious cheesy gold. [Cheese Rolling]


Extreme Ironing

Extreme ironing is a British sport that's already become a worldwide phenomena. From humble beginnings in a Leicester back garden, extreme ironing has taken on a life of its own, spreading throughout the world from Japan, to Iraq, and even to Antarctica.

According to the Extreme Ironing Bureau's website, it "combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt." Anyone can get involved in extreme ironing -- just think up something extreme, and bring an iron. However, the official website does suggest practicing somewhere like the woods first, just to check that you can cope with ironing outdoors first.

The original extreme ironing was just ironing mixed with rock climbing, but has since grown to encompass many varied disciplines, including base jump ironing; zip line ironing and snowboard ironing.

One of the most vibrant ironing forms today is underwater ironing. The Guinness World Record for the most underwater ironers is a heavily contested accolade currently in British hands, having been stolen from under the noses of a New Zealand ironing team who themselves took the record from the Aussies, who took it from the Kiwis in the first place. Oh, and before you try, according to the official rules, the iron doesn't need to be plugged in if you're underwater. Good to know. [Extreme Ironing Bureau]


The Eton Wall Game

Image credit: Wikipedia

This sport consists of little more than a load of very posh boys stuck in a scrum against a very old brick wall. It's played on a pitch 5 metres wide and 110 metres long, next to a slightly curved brick wall known imaginatively as 'The Wall'. The game pits a team of über-posh fee-paying Eton students (David Cameron no doubt joined in), against scholarship-funded, yet equally-posh ones (Boris was likely on this side).

The first recorded game was in 1766, and it involves moving inch by inch up the length of 'The Wall' in order to score a point for reaching the opponent's end. If it sounds like the most boring spectator sport ever, that's because it is. It's not hard to see why the game never spread beyond Eton's grounds when you learn that most years the teams are too evenly matched, resulting in a stalemate, and the fact that if no-one scores a single goal, they all just stand there looking a bit silly mashed up against an old wall.

I'd like to see the wall rebuilt in London for the Olympics' opening ceremony, to make Boris and Cameron battle it out and finally settle the ongoing political rivalry between the two...but mainly just to see who'd win in a fight. [Cracked]


Royal Shrovetide Football

Once a year, for two days, the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire goes absolutely mental. Royal Shrovetide Football has been played here since at least the 12th century on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, when villagers from north of the river or 'Up'Ards' face off against the 'Down'Ards' from south of the river.

The whole town becomes a giant rugby pitch, and massive scrums involving hundreds of angry men become a real health and safety hazard for old ladies heading out to the shops. The game starts in the town centre, but not before the whole town has been boarded up, because even if the ball ends up in your front room, it's not technically out of bounds. The game only finishes when the ball is 'goaled' at either end of the 4 mile 'pitch'. It really makes you realise how boring a regular rugby pitch is without all the rivers, cars and buildings, town and elderly in the way.

A very romantic theory on how the game first came about suggests that originally there was no ball, but instead, the head of an executed prisoner was thrown to the crowd then lobbed about town. I don't know why anyone was fighting over the head, but I guess it makes about as much sense as chasing a ball around.

A similar 'game' called the Naked Man Festival is played in Japan, where thousands of Japanese blokes dress up like sumo wrestlers and fight over a lucky stick -- so that's at least two nations with ready-made Olympic Shrovetide Football teams. Let's get the petition going for Rio 2016. [Cracked]

Know any mental sports from anywhere else in the world? Slap the weirdest you can find in the comments below, and tell us if we missed any British ones madder than this lot.

Main image credit: Olympic logo from paulstringer on Flickr and welly wanger from Holidayextras on Flickr