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Crazy Sports Around the UK - 2012 Alternatives for Sports Fans

Definitely Not the Olympic Games


Crazy sports have always had their eccentric fans around the UK. Quite a few alternative sports have been played far longer than any conventional sport you can name. Some visitors to these pages may be familiar with an old BBC satire show, "Not the Nine O'Clock News". In that irreverent spirit, consider these crazy events which are definitely Not the Olympic Games.

Pancake Tossing

Olney Pancake Race Winner 1957
Getty Images

The Olney Pancake Race may have its imitators but Olney is the original. They've been running it on Shrove Tuesday in this northeastern corner of Buckinghamshire for at least 570 years. In this age of equal opportunity regardless of gender, the Olney Pancake Race is a strictly female affair. Only women who have lived in the town for at least six months are eligible to enter. They dress in traditional "housewife" gear - aprons and headscarfs and must toss a real pancake in a frying pan while running between The Bull in and St. Peter and St. Paul Church. Tradition has it that the race began because a townswoman late for the Shriving service at the Olney parish church.

Since 1950, it's been a transatlantic sport,run against pancake tossers in Liberal, Kansas. The winner is determined by comparing times in a transatlantic telephone call.

No sign of this becoming an Olympic event anytime soon - but maybe it will make it into the London 2012 opening ceremony.

Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire

And the Winner Takes the Cheese - Winner of Wacky Race, Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire
Photo courtesy of Gloucestershire Tourism

Fit young daredevils, male and female, head for Coopers Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, every year on the second May Bank Holiday, to throw themselves down a very steep, grassy slope in pursuit of a wheel of Double Gloucester Cheese. The hill is so steep that sometimes spectators find themselves rolling down by accident and the starter, who sets the cheese rolling has to be held by the organizers to avoid rolling away with the cheese him or herself.

This is another one of those events that's been going on for hundreds of years. Local officials tried to ban it for health and safety reasons a few years ago, but there was such an outcry they had to reinstate it. Ambulancemen and first aiders attend because there are usually some cuts, bruises and sprains before the winner takes the cheese.

In 2012, the second May Bank Holiday has been moved to June 4 as part of the 4-day holiday for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The Cheese Roll will take place on that day.

Bog Snorkelling

Bog snorkelling in Wales
Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Llanwrtyd Wells in Powys, Mid-Wales, claims to be Britain's smallest town. But it has another, even better distinction as the home of the International Bog Snorkelling Championships. Held during the August Bank Holiday weekend, it involves participants - men, women and children over 14 years - donning snorkelling gear and racing along two muddy water filled trenches cut in a Welsh Bog. They can't use conventional swimming strokes to navigate the 120-yard race and they can only raise their heads from the dark water for orientation. It's an extreme and, need we say it, an extremely dirty sport. With an ending, no doubt, in the local pub.

British World Marbles Championships

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Every Good Friday outside the The Greyhound Pub in Tinsley Green (rain or shine) grown up men, and some women, play children's games in the British World Marbles Championships. The game is played by teams of six members with each member getting a set number of marbles and one extra added to prevent a draw finish. They've been holding the event since the early 1930s at the end of the marbles season. Yes, believe it or not, there is a marble season in Sussex and Kent. Have a look at the Greyhound Marbles website for some fascinating marbles history and insights into the competitive game around the world. Olympic Committee, what are you waiting for?

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