From cheese rolling and backwards racing through to wife-carrying and tank biathlon, the world is full of some pretty wacky sports. While most people are content with a gentle game of tennis or a leisurely stroll around the golf course, some will always seek out the absurd. There are more weird ways to get active than ever before, with quirky traditional sports becoming more popular and brand new activities designed especially for the jaded sports fan on the lookout for something new.
The World Alternative Games is a great example of our increasing appetite for weird sports, with a number of wacky activities taking place each year for two and a half weeks in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. Contestants at the games compete in a wide range of strange sports, including gravy wrestling, backwards running races, stiletto races, office chair races, bouncy castle wrapping, and wife carrying. First held in 2012, this event was initially designed as an alternative to the London Olympics.
Ollie Warner, a mild mannered field sales manager by day, has competed at the Games for the past two year and speaks about his attraction to this strange world: "We've entered an office team for a couple of years so I've taken up the mantle as our representative... My thinking for taking part was it sounded interesting, different and at the end of the day, fun - you get very few chances to jump around in gravy... I'll have to put my mum's stilettos on before I go to practice and maybe fill a paddling pool with gravy!"
Another unconventional sport that has recently taken the world by storm is the World Tank Biathlon in Russia. This unique event sees tanks from 12 countries race it out around three laps of a 4km circular track while shooting enemy targets with cannon and coaxial machine-guns. While no NATO countries are present due to Russia’s dispute with the West over Ukraine, China and India are on-board along with a number of smaller nations. “It may be said without any exaggerations that this event turns a new page in the international military cooperation,” said Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
While the wonderful world of Tank Biathlon has only been with us since 2013, other wacky sports have a much more enduring tradition. Originally from Finland, the sport of wife-carrying harks back to more traditional times, when men were men and women were carried around in uncomfortable positions like the piggyback, the fireman’s lift, and - my personal favourite - old Estonian style. Rooted in the legend of Ronkainen the Robber from the 1800s, the official Wife Carrying World Championships has been held annually in Sonkajärvi, Finland since 1992.
Another long-standing sport that has recently achieved global fame is cheese rolling, an annual event held near Gloucester in England. Cheese has been rolled down a hill with people competing to catch it since the 15th century, proving that even the strangest ideas can catch on with a little perseverance. Each year the event becomes more and more popular with contestants from around the world, with a 27-year-old American and a 39-year-old Japanese each winning one of the four races held in 2013.