Olympicks celebrates 400 years of history

This year marks four centuries of the Olympick movement. But this did not originate in Greece and is polar opposite to the glitz and slickness of the mighty Olympic event taking part in London.

Nope, the Olympicks – with a K – was revived in 1612 by a chap called Robert Dover, on a hill above Chipping Camden in England’s sleepy Cotswolds.

Indeed, the British Olympic (without a K) Association alluded to the Olympicks in their successful bid for the 2012 games.

“[It is] an annual sporting fair that honoured the ancient Games of Greece. Those early ‘Olimpick’ competitors were as remote as you could imagine from the Olympic stars of today, and the ‘sports’ included singlestick, wrestling, jumping in sacks, dancing and even shin-kicking.

“But whatever the eccentric nature of the event, this was the pre-dawn of the Olympic Movement, and the Cotswold Games began the historical thread in Britain that was ultimately to lead to the creation of the modern Olympics,” said the bigwigs, and they’re best mates with David Beckham, so you know they know their stuff.

Singers and Scuttlebrooks

The event was on Friday, 1 June with events running from 2pm to midnight.

One of the big highlights of this year’s games, say organisers, was the world premiere of the Olympic Welcome Songs by Eliza Carthy, Robert Hollingworth, I Fagiolini and a 150 strong choir led by Richard Stephens. This was preceded by a folk concert at 3.30pm featuring Mawkin, Beth Thornton, Bethany Weimers and the Robbie Boyd Band.

“The evening will bring the traditional sporting events like the Shin-Kicking and Tug-of-War and the upper level favourites in the arenas. At 9.45pm the Scuttlebrook Queen lights the beacon, fireworks colour the sky and then there is the moving Torchlight Procession to the Square in Chipping Campden where dancing in the Square concludes the evening at midnight,” we were told.

Falcons and shin kicking

Things to watch included a Jacobean Village with entertainers in period costume, The Taborers, Medieval Dance Troupe, Aile O Var Backswords Demonstration, Falconry, Tug-of-War and more whilst events include Shin Kicking, Champion of the Hill and Tug of War.

In the past, there’s also been exotic sports like the surely-made-up dwile flonking, motor cycle scrambling, judo, piano smashing and morris dancing.

The current shin-kicking world champion is Ben Corfield, who won the 2011 event. Contestants hold each other by the shoulder and try to kick shins and bring opponents to the ground. Bizarrely, the event is also known as “purring”.

The sport dates back to the original Games. The activity continued through to the 18th century. In the early 19th century the activity was more brutal, with villages challenging each other, contestants hardening shins with coal hammers and wearing boots tipped with iron. Many a leg was broken. Still, there are smocks involved, and participants are “allowed to protect their shins with straw”. Obviously don’t try this at home but it’s gotta be more fun than the first 10 laps of the 5,000 metres hasn’t it?

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