Weird World of Sports

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For 17 days this summer, the world will take a break from the financial crisis, political upheaval, and maybe even the U.S. presidential mud-slinging to watch as 10,000 athletes from over 205 countries compete for the gold. What began as a modest amateur competition in Athens a century ago has become the ultimate global test of speed, strength, and patriotism -- not to mention commercialism. That said, while running, swimming, and gymnastics are all well and good, we at FP are of the opinion that there are a few events missing from the official list. And so, infused with the Olympic spirit of citius, altius, fortius ("faster, higher, stronger"), we humbly suggest something a bit "weirder, messier, and more-dead-goaty." Leaving the Latin to better scholars, here are 14 less heralded sports from around the world we'd like to see in the next Olympics.

1. Pacu Jawi

In the traditional West Sumatran game of pacu jawi -- or mud-cow racing -- members of the Minangkabau tribe have managed to combine surfing with bull riding for a sport that's a wonder to watch. With bare feet balanced on a lightweight wooden plow, jockeys attempt to steer two sprinting cows tied loosely together by their tails through flooded rice paddies. Hygienic it's not: Besides the spray of mud and cow patties, to direct the surging animals in a straight path, jockeys frequently bite the tails as they race chariot-style. Held at the beginning of each rice-harvesting season, some 500 to 700 cows are typically needed for this show of both human and animal strength. The best-performing cows are sold in auctions to local farmers immediately afterward.

2. Caber Toss

Forget shot put and javelin. In Scotland, they prove their athletic prowess by throwing trees. In an event known as the caber toss, participants throw 20-foot-long logs -- or "cabers"-- into the air. Typically carved from the trunk of a larch tree, these 100-pound logs are tossed up and out from the thrower. Besides covering distance, participants must focus on the caber's orientation as well. To get a perfect "12" -- the game is scored like an hour-clock -- the caber's narrower bottom end must align with an imaginary 12:00 position. Any deviation will result in score between 9:00 and 3:00.

Still practiced at the Highland Games, a Scottish summer ritual of sport and culture, the caber toss is believed to have originated as a means of crossing narrow river chasms.

http://5.%20Kabaddi%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Soccer%20fans%20might%20wait%20with%20bated%20breath%20for%20a%20goal,%20but%20in%20the%20Indian%20game%20%20of%20kabaddi,%20the%20players%20are%20holding%20their%20%20breath%20as%20well.%20With%20two%20seven-member%20teams%20competing%20on%20a%20small%20field,%20teams%20%20alternate%20sending%20a%20"raider"%20onto%20the%20other%20side%20to%20tackle%20members%20of%20the%20%20opposing%20team.%20While%20he%20chants%20"kabaddi,%20kabaddi,"%20the%20raider%20must%20touch%20%20members%20of%20the%20opposing%20team%20and%20return%20to%20his%20side%20--%20all%20without%20inhaling.%20If%20%20he%20has%20to%20take%20a%20breath,%20he's%20out.%20If%20he%20doesn't,%20his%20team%20gains%20extra%20points%20%20and%20can%20reclaim%20a%20lost%20player.%20While%20the%20game%20has%20been%20practiced%20for%20hundreds%20%20of%20years,%20it%20was%20not%20until%201950%20that%20the%20Kabaddi%20Federation%20of%20India%20%20standardized%20its%20rules.%20The%20game%20was%20included%20for%20the%20first%20time%20in%20the%2011th%20%20Asian%20Games%20in%20Beijing%20in%201990%20and%20has%20increased%20in%20popularity%20throughout%20Asia.

5. Kabaddi

Soccer fans might wait with bated breath for a goal, but in the Indian game of kabaddi, the players are holding their breath as well. With two seven-member teams competing on a small field, teams alternate sending a "raider" onto the other side to tackle members of the opposing team. While he chants "kabaddi, kabaddi," the raider must touch members of the opposing team and return to his side -- all without inhaling. If he has to take a breath, he's out. If he doesn't, his team gains extra points and can reclaim a lost player. While the game has been practiced for hundreds of years, it was not until 1950 that the Kabaddi Federation of India standardized its rules. The game was included for the first time in the 11th Asian Games in Beijing in 1990 and has increased in popularity throughout Asia.

http://6.%20%20Camel%20Wrestling%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Camel%20wrestling%20--%20once%20practiced%20throughout%20Anatolia%20but%20now%20mainly%20restricted%20%20to%20Selcuk,%20Turkey,%20in%20the%20Aegean%20region%20--%20is%20a%20rough%20game,%20but%20it's%20all%20for%20love.%20%20Elaborately%20saddled%20in%20traditional%20colors%20and%20bells,%20male%20camels%20are%20paraded%20%20before%20a%20female%20in%20heat%20before%20being%20made%20to%20battle%20%20for%20her%20affection.%20Kicking%20and%20pushing,%20the%20camels%20contest%20what's%20%20usually%20a%2010-minute%20match,%20until%20one%20screams%20or%20tries%20to%20bite%20the%20other.%20An%20%20estimated%201,200%20camels%20are%20bred%20specially%20for%20wrestling%20competitions%20each%20year,%20%20though%20only%20around%20120%20earn%20a%20coveted%20spot%20in%20Selcuk's%20Annual%20%20Camel%20Wrestling%20Championship.%20Unfortunately%20for%20the%20camels,%20neither%20winner%20%20nor%20loser%20typically%20gets%20to%20indulge%20their%20amorous%20%20temptations%20afterward.

6. Camel Wrestling

Camel wrestling -- once practiced throughout Anatolia but now mainly restricted to Selcuk, Turkey, in the Aegean region -- is a rough game, but it's all for love. Elaborately saddled in traditional colors and bells, male camels are paraded before a female in heat before being made to battle for her affection. Kicking and pushing, the camels contest what's usually a 10-minute match, until one screams or tries to bite the other. An estimated 1,200 camels are bred specially for wrestling competitions each year, though only around 120 earn a coveted spot in Selcuk's Annual Camel Wrestling Championship. Unfortunately for the camels, neither winner nor loser typically gets to indulge their amorous temptations afterward.

http://7.%20Pumpkin%20%20Paddling%20%20%20%20%20%20For%20%20some%20Canadians,%20fall's%20most%20recognizable%20gourds%20are%20more%20than%20just%20vegetables%20%20--%20they're%20vehicles.%20In%20the%20chilly%20waters%20of%20Lake%20Pesaquid,%20Nova%20Scotia%20--%20home%20%20to%20supersize%20pumpkin%20plantations%20--%20residents%20race%20miles%20in%20these%20orange%20behemoths.%20%20Averaging%20600%20pounds,%20these%20real-life%20Cinderella%20%20carriages%20support%20full-grown%20men,%20motors,%20and%20paddles%20in%20a%20variety%20%20of%20half-mile%20races.%20And%20yet%20even%20experienced%20racers%20have%20to%20watch%20how%20they%20sit%20%20to%20avoid%20capsizing%20the%20precarious%20boats.%20Since%201999,%20thousands%20of%20spectators%20%20have%20flocked%20to%20Lake%20Pesaquid%20to%20watch%20the%20annual%20Pumpkin%20Regatta,%20and%20the%20%20number%20of%20participants%20has%20grown%20nearly%20tenfold%20since%20then.
7. Pumpkin Paddling

For some Canadians, fall's most recognizable gourds are more than just vegetables -- they're vehicles. In the chilly waters of Lake Pesaquid, Nova Scotia -- home to supersize pumpkin plantations -- residents race miles in these orange behemoths. Averaging 600 pounds, these real-life Cinderella carriages support full-grown men, motors, and paddles in a variety of half-mile races. And yet even experienced racers have to watch how they sit to avoid capsizing the precarious boats. Since 1999, thousands of spectators have flocked to Lake Pesaquid to watch the annual Pumpkin Regatta, and the number of participants has grown nearly tenfold since then.

http://9.%20%20Buzkashi%20%20%20%20%20%20An%20ancient%20game%20%20played%20mostly%20in%20northern%20Afghanistan%20and%20other%20parts%20of%20Central%20Asia,%20%20buzkashi,%20or%20"goat-grabbing,"%20isn't%20for%20the%20faint%20of%20heart.%20To%20begin,%20a%20headless%20%20goat%20carcass%20is%20placed%20in%20the%20middle%20of%20a%20large%20field%20and%20two%20opposing%20%20teams%20compete%20for%20possession%20on%20horseback.%20Once%20retrieved,%20the%20object%20is%20to%20%20ferry%20the%20carcass%20to%20the%20scoring%20area%20--%20a%20marked%20circle%20on%20the%20ground.%20A%20%20game%20of%20great%20skill%20and%20strength,%20horses%20typically%20train%20for%20five%20to%20six%20years%20%20before%20they're%20ready%20to%20compete.%20For%20many%20Afghans,%20it's%20not%20a%20just%20game%20but%20%20also%20a%20way%20of%20preserving%20traditional%20values%20as%20well%20as%20a%20test%20of%20communication,%20%20endurance,%20and%20power.

9. Buzkashi

An ancient game played mostly in northern Afghanistan and other parts of Central Asia, buzkashi, or "goat-grabbing," isn't for the faint of heart. To begin, a headless goat carcass is placed in the middle of a large field and two opposing teams compete for possession on horseback. Once retrieved, the object is to ferry the carcass to the scoring area -- a marked circle on the ground. A game of great skill and strength, horses typically train for five to six years before they're ready to compete. For many Afghans, it's not a just game but also a way of preserving traditional values as well as a test of communication, endurance, and power.

http://10.%20Land%20Diving%20%20%20%20%20%20%20While%20bungee-jumping%20might%20seem%20%20like%20the%20ultimate%20test%20of%20daring%20bravado,%20for%20locals%20on%20the%20Pacific%20island%20of%20Vanuatu,%20it's%20a%20cop-out.%20For%20hundreds%20of%20%20years,%20natives%20there%20have%20substituted%20vines%20for%20sissy%20elastic%20cords%20to%20please%20the%20gods%20and%20secure%20communal%20prosperity.%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Competitors%20%20jump%20from%2060-foot%20wooden%20towers%20with%20thick%20tree%20vines%20wrapped%20around%20their%20%20angles.%20While%20bungee%20jumpers%20use%20bouncy%20ropes%20that%20flex,%20the%20vines%20are%20much%20%20less%20forgiving%20--%20as%20are%20the%20tower's%20sharp,%20jutting%20logs.%20The%20plunge%20is%20%20also%20designed%20to%20take%20them%20as%20close%20to%20the%20earth%20below%20as%20possible,%20which%20means%20the%20occasional%20injury.

10. Land Diving

While bungee-jumping might seem like the ultimate test of daring bravado, for locals on the Pacific island of Vanuatu, it's a cop-out. For hundreds of years, natives there have substituted vines for sissy elastic cords to please the gods and secure communal prosperity.

Competitors jump from 60-foot wooden towers with thick tree vines wrapped around their angles. While bungee jumpers use bouncy ropes that flex, the vines are much less forgiving -- as are the tower's sharp, jutting logs. The plunge is also designed to take them as close to the earth below as possible, which means the occasional injury.

http://12.%20Eukonkanto%20(Wife%20Carrying)%20%20%20%20%20%20This%20%20sport%20was%20originally%20inspired%20by%20the%2018th-century%20legend%20of%20Herkko%20%20Rosvo-Ronkainen,%20a%20Finnish%20forest%20thug%20who%20stole%20women%20from%20villagers.%20While%20%20that%20charming%20practice%20is%20generally%20frowned%20upon%20these%20days,%20it's%20morphed%20into%20%20the%20sport%20of%20wife%20carrying.%20The%20first%20"Wife%20Carrying%20Championship"%20was%20held%20in%20%20the%20town%20of%20Sonkäjarvi%20in%201992.%20Most%20competitors%20use%20the%20"Estonian%20style"%20%20technique,%20wherein%20spouses%20hang%20upside-down%20on%20their%20husbands'%20backs,%20grabbing%20%20hold%20of%20their%20waists,%20while%20the%20men%20race%20through%20a%20253.5-meter%20course,%20peppered%20%20with%20log%20hurdles%20and%20water%20obstacles.%20The%20prize?%20Beer,%20of%20course.%20The%20sport%20has%20%20grown%20rapidly%20in%20Finland%20and%20spread%20to%20parts%20of%20the%20United%20States,%20with%20%20annual%20competitions%20now%20organized%20in%20Maine,%20Wisconsin,%20and%20Michigan.

12. Eukonkanto (Wife Carrying)

This sport was originally inspired by the 18th-century legend of Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, a Finnish forest thug who stole women from villagers. While that charming practice is generally frowned upon these days, it's morphed into the sport of wife carrying. The first "Wife Carrying Championship" was held in the town of Sonkäjarvi in 1992. Most competitors use the "Estonian style" technique, wherein spouses hang upside-down on their husbands' backs, grabbing hold of their waists, while the men race through a 253.5-meter course, peppered with log hurdles and water obstacles. The prize? Beer, of course. The sport has grown rapidly in Finland and spread to parts of the United States, with annual competitions now organized in Maine, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

http://13.%20%20Skirjoring%20%20%20%20%20%20In%20the%20sport%20of%20skijoring,%20first%20practiced%20competitively%20throughout%20%20Scandinavia,%20competitors%20strap%20on%20cross-country%20skis%20before%20being%20tied%20by%20an%20%20eight-foot%20rope%20to%20a%20horse,%20a%20vehicle,%20a%20team%20of%20up%20to%20three%20dogs,%20or%20the%20%20occasional%20mule%20(winners%20of%20this%20breed%20get%20a%20"Best%20Ass%20in%20the%20World"%20trophy%20at%20world%20championship%20games),%20%20depending%20on%20the%20event.%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Racers%20are%20%20pulled%20along%20a%20900-foot%20horseshoe-shaped%20course%20complete%20with%20jumps%20and%20%20slalom%20gates.%20Some%20competitions%20have%20longer,%20straighter%20courses%20(one%20Canadian%20%20competition%20had%20a%2099-mile%20course)%20for%20more%20of%20an%20endurance%20challenge%20than%20a%20%20sprint.%20Practiced%20in%20many%20countries%20in%20Europe%20and%20in%20Canada%20and%20the%20United%20%20States,%20skijoring%20world%20championships%20are%20held%20in%20Montana%20each%20year%20and%20include%20prizes%20in%20the%20tens%20of%20thousands%20of%20dollars.%20%20Skijoring%20made%20it%20to%20the%20Olympic%20Games%20only%20once%20--%20as%20a%20demonstration%20sport%20in%20%201928.

13. Skirjoring

In the sport of skijoring, first practiced competitively throughout Scandinavia, competitors strap on cross-country skis before being tied by an eight-foot rope to a horse, a vehicle, a team of up to three dogs, or the occasional mule (winners of this breed get a "Best Ass in the World" trophy at world championship games), depending on the event.

Racers are pulled along a 900-foot horseshoe-shaped course complete with jumps and slalom gates. Some competitions have longer, straighter courses (one Canadian competition had a 99-mile course) for more of an endurance challenge than a sprint. Practiced in many countries in Europe and in Canada and the United States, skijoring world championships are held in Montana each year and include prizes in the tens of thousands of dollars. Skijoring made it to the Olympic Games only once -- as a demonstration sport in 1928.

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