For all the media’s focus on big-money events, it’s often weird local games or odd new hybrid events that really capture the joy of sport across the world. So we asked the authors of The Rough Guide to Cult Sport to select their ten favourite strange sports from the book (with apologies to the likes of cardboard tube duelling, cheese rolling, dwarf throwing, Irish road bowling, underwater ice hockey and yak racing, which didn’t quite make the cut).
A cousin in spirit to England’s cheese rolling, in Haka Pei participants are timed hurtling down a steep hill strapped to a banana tree stump, sliding at speeds of up to 50 mph. Originally the event was linked to the training of local warriors though it is now a central event of the annual festival of Tapati.
A vital part of Indonesian independence celebrations, Panjat Panang sees various objects, such as bikes and televisions, hung as prizes at the top of liberally-greased nut or palm tree trunks. Oddly enough, climbing up is not easy and it is not individuals but more often youthful groups working together that reach the top earliest to secure the best goodies.
Not so much odd as miraculous to western eyes, Kataw is a volleyball-style game that requires high-kicking acrobatics and dazzling levels of balance. The most spectacular move is the equivalent of the volleyball “spike”, performed via a bicycle-kick and usually defended close to the net in the same way. In Malaysia they call this strange sport Sepak Tekraw.
With its strikingly mud-drenched contestants, Bog Snorkelling has become something of a dirty poster boy of weird sports. The annual world championships, held every August, started some thirty years ago at Llanwrtyd Wells. Participants have to swim two soggy sixty-metre stretches of a trench specially cut into a Welsh peat bog.
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