The event I’m about to introduce you to has already passed us by, but you might want to look for it next year, so let’s talk about it anyway. It’s a sports event. Sort of. It celebrates British eccentricity. Emphatically.
The Chap Olympiad’s website says it’s “designed to reward panache rather than sporting prowess and the games require the minimum amount of physical exertion. Not since the days of Bee versus Pigeon Racing during the Victorian times have so many befuddled anarcho-dandies and gin-addled punks been gathered together under one parasol to make mockery of the whole idea of sport.”
Yes, bee versus pigeon racing seems to have been a real thing. It also seems to have happened only once. It wasn’t a major thing.
The chap contests this year were (or included–who knows?):
Tea Pursuit. Contestants cycled around the course, transferring a cup of tea from one rider to the next. The amount of tea remaining in each team’s cup decided the winner.
French Connection. Three lumps of French cheese were mounted on poles and contestants tried to knock them off using a baguette as a javelin.
Top Trump Toupee. Contestants tried to knock Donald Trump’s wig off his head with a softball.
Umbrella Jousting. Contestants charged at each other on bikes, brandishing umbrellas and (by way of armor) wearing bowler hats and carrying briefcases.
Riding Crop Rumpus. Participants knelt in a row and a contestant tried to whip them with a riding crop. Why is the word tried in there? Because the participants were defended by a lady in a leather catsuit. Don’t ask me. I’m going to assume this has something to do with British public schools, which are private schools, generally for the elite. And very strange places.
Butler Baiting. A fleet of butlers mixed gin and tonics and pairs of contestants made a three-legged dash for them. If they didn’t make it in one minute, the butler got the drink.
The olympiad tried to set world records for the most hats worn while riding a bicycle (I’m going to guess that’s hats on one head, since they seem to be talking about one bike, but it’s hard to tell), the most ties knotted in one minute, the fastest 100-yard sprint with a cup of tea, the most hats tossed onto a hat stand, and the most people smoking one pipe.
Photos? Yes indeed. I have no idea if they’re from this year or some other, but I don’t suppose it matters. I’d tell you how many years the olympiad’s been running but I haven’t been able to find out. What I can tell you is that the sponsor, The Chap Magazine, was founded in 1999, so this isn’t a traditional tradition.
The magazine, like the event, espouses anarcho-dandyism.
Anarcho-what? Listen, I didn’t make it up, so don’t ask me to make sense of it. It seems to favor tweed, smoking, facial hair (it’s all about men), a highly ambiguous relationship to upper-class male traditions, and a strong sense of the absurd. I read one magazine article, on boater hats, which describes them as sitting on your head like inedible crackers. It was a good piece of writing, and even if it was about fashion, and upper-class male fashion at that, it was entirely readable. If the article’s typical, the magazine’s well written.
My thanks to Bear Humphries, who dropped the olympiad on my head. I’ll have to find an inedible cracker to drop on his in return. In the meantime, you might want to check out his photography. He’s doing some work with abstracts that I really enjoy.