As the European Summer winds down – and so too does the European Bazaar project – One Small World has their eyes set on Gold as we return to the mecca of strange festivals for the ‘mad Olympics’, the World Alternative Games! In 2012 London hosted the 30th modern Olympic Games, an event couched in Ancient Greek ideals of humanist endeavour and excellence. Meanwhile, Wales was home to the inaugural World Alternative Games (WAG), an event inspired by the modern principles of fun, laughter and fancy dress.
Whereas the Olympics pit super-human athletes against one another in the cauldron of competition, the WAG pits super-normal plebs like you and me against one another across a blow-up pool of fake gravy.
So successful were the first World Alternative Games in 2012 that they are now held every 2 years in the little Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells (which, like most Welsh town names, looks like you’ve sneezed while typing but is in fact pronounced, in my best approximation, as ‘Clan-er-tid Wells’)
And did you know that there were only 26 different sports at the London Olympics? Well, in 2014 the WAG hosted almost 70 different events from Zombie Racing to Husband-Dragging to Belly Flopping to, of course, Gravy Wrestling.
The town of Llanwrtyd Wells is no stranger to mind-boggling events. Back in 1980 the town began the Man versus Horse race, a marathon over the Welsh countryside pitting runners against riders. Only twice have the humans beaten the horses and now the event brings in people from all over the world after the glory (and the prize money) attached to beating out a horse and rider over 23.6 miles.
Since then, ‘Britain’s smallest town’ has become home to Mountain Bike Chariot Races, bicycle pub crawls, an ancient Roman beer festival and, probably the most famous, its annual Bog Snorkelling competition.
Boasting a population of only 601 people, Llanwrtyd Wells is a glorious example of what a small, remote town can do with a little bit of inspiration and a big dose of hard work. Every year the town attracts tens of thousands of visitors (and numerous international film crews) to its wacky events. This year even bought actor Warwick Davis, star of Willow and Life’s Too Short, to film at the Games for a new TV series.
Over the course of almost 3 weeks in August, the WAG sported events all over town, handing out Gold, Silver and Bronze to deserving winners and equally-valued participation medals. The back-side of the medals proudly expound ‘Taking part is more important than winning’. And here, the sentiment is justified.
Set in the rolling green fields of Wales, far away from the overcrowded bustle of England and only accessible by winding country roads, Llanwrtyd Wells is like discovering a new favourite pub, one with an off-beat sense of humour, full of friendly people eager to welcome you into the fold.