Every year, in every part of Britain and Ireland, weird and wonderful sporting events take place. Some of them have become so famous (or notorious) that they are attended by thousands of spectators, together with reporters from national news channels and other media.
Such is the cult following of certain events, some of Britain and Ireland’s biggest bookies have jumped on board, eager to become sponsors and of course profit from these unpredictable events.
It would be a difficult task indeed to set odds for these strange sports, but at least there is a fair chance that the bookies won’t be facing the same big payouts as they did for some of the rather unexpected outcomes discussed here. So, without further ado, let’s look at the weird and wonderful sporting events across the UK…
Cold Welsh Waters: Bog Snorkelling
Yes, you did read that correctly, the World Bog Snorkelling Championship is a real event that happens every year in Llanwrtyd Wells (located in West Wales for the uninitiated). It is attended by the Guinness World Record team, along with bookmakers eager to take your bets.
Participants negotiate 120-metres of cold, sludgy water, in the fastest possible time, with separate classes for men and women. However, the rules remain the same. All competitors must wear flippers, a mask and snorkel. Swimming is not allowed, forward motion must be using ‘flipper power’ only, along with plenty of cursing, rumour has it!
Strong Scots: Caber Tossing
A number of kilt-wearing Scottish gentlemen gather at venues across the Highlands to throw a large chunk of Larch tree in a certain way. Joking aside, this event is taken very seriously. Competition is fierce, with winners qualifying to compete in the Highland Games.
The caber measures a precise 19ft 6in, weighing 175lbs. It is tossed in such a way that it travels end-to-end, with the winner judged on style and precision, not distance. Apparently, some heavy-duty wagers are placed on this event based on the ‘form’ of the competitors, which bizarrely includes their daily calorific intake!
Luck of the Irish: Wife Carrying
A real Irish special this one! Hence we thought it only fair to include this humorous quote from sponsors, Paddy Power “Some bookies like to sponsor horse races, but we tend to be drawn more to strip poker tournaments … and now wife-carrying.”
This event involves carrying your wife (or significant other) over a 253-metre obstacle course, with the couple who finish in the fastest time being declared the winners. The organisers keep the obstacles secret, so competitors never know in advance what to expect! Under modern rules you don’t have to be married – though success has resulted in subsequent proposals in the past!
English Madness: Cheese Rolling
Notable as one of the most dangerous events, Gloucestershire cheese rolling always enjoys plenty of media coverage. Some of that attention (and betting) is aimed at the amount of injuries sustained by competitors.
Mix a steep 300m downhill course, 9lb of Double Gloucester cheese rolling at high speed and a herd of people chasing it; that pretty much sums it up. The first person able to cross the finish line wins the cheese. With an injury rate of 33%, betting focuses on how many will complete the course, rather than on the winner.
Something Unreal: Quidditch
We couldn’t resist adding Quidditch here, the sport made famous by Harry Potter. Even if not a fan, you will surely have heard of this game involving witches, wizards, flying brooms and a lot of balls!
Unsurprisingly, Quidditch has been adapted to the needs of us mere muggles (non-magic humans), who cannot fly, but can still manage to ride brooms around a pitch. As for the balls, you get to play with five, all at once. To add more chaos, is the human snitch, whose purpose is to disrupt the game – as if it wasn’t manic enough already! There is a huge betting market for Quidditch, although how or what to bet on defeats us!
Time to Slow Things Down?
Any of these events sounds pretty epic to compete in, not to mention dangerous. However, spectators in their thousands have declared them huge fun, with the added excitement of placing a bet…
Regrettably, they were all cancelled in 2020, with the outlook for 2021 still looking a little dicey. But fear not, while you are in lockdown, you can still enjoy some rather less taxing options such as video gaming — though when lockdown eases, perhaps you’ll be tempted to give one of the above oddities a try too?