Chipping Campden’s (mostly) annual sporting event, the Cotswold Olimpick Games, is as quirky as its name suggests. You can probably guess it has a place on my UK bucket list!
The Cotswold Olimpick Games (yes, the spelling is correct) usually take place in late May each year. As you can guess there won’t be an event in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic but I hope you enjoy my memories of the 2019 event.
History of the event
The games were first held in 1612. Robert Dover, a lawyer, organised the sporting competition for local people to enjoy. Despite interruptions due to the Civil War, foot and mouth and lack of funds the games have survived. The modern incarnation of the event now forbids alcohol, dogs and swords but the essence of the games survives.
Today’s Cotswold Olimpicks take place on Dover’s Hill, about half a mile away from Chipping Campden. It’s non-commercialised, run entirely by volunteers and is family friendly. We had a great night at the games, enjoying the atmosphere, and events in the evening sunshine.
The 2019 event saw the resurgence of the running races. And I took part!
It’s a very informal set up. About ten of us entered the race, which was split into two different events, a one mile and a three mile hill run.
It’s a hilly route so I’d already made the decision to stick to the one mile race (one lap, rather than three). I turned out to be the only competitor. This meant I both won and came last in my race. I was proud to receive an Olimpick medal, even if I did feel a bit of a fraud.
The Games were officially opened after the running events at 7pm. This was marked by the arrival of the outgoing Scuttlebrook Queen in a vintage car, along with ‘Robert Dover’ on a horse. Afterwards the games commenced!
Championship of the Hill
The Championship of the Hill is a team event. Competitors take part in a variety of ‘It’s a knockout’ competitions. Think obstacle courses, water slides and dressing up games. There was a lot of cheating, it all got a bit silly and at the end everyone got very wet.
This was the main event of the evening. I had vaguely thought about entering but I’m so glad I didn’t as it turned out to be way more brutal than I envisioned.
Competitors grasp their opponents shoulders and then kick their shins to force the person to the ground. Thankfully, steel toe caps are banned and competitors are allowed to stuff straw into their trousers and socks to protect their shins. Even so, I can only imagine the bruises afterwards!
Heats take place throughout the evening with the final happening just before the fireworks start.
Entrants to the Champion of the Hill take part in a variety of throwing and jumping events. Contestants throw the hammer, put the shot, do a standing jump and spurn the barre. There’s also a tug o’ war for teams of eight.
If you fancy taking part in any of these events it’s easy to register on the night, although for team events you’ll need to organise your teams in advance and let the organisers know. There’s a form on the Olimpicks website to make this easier.
After the last games have taken place the fireworks commence and a beacon is lit.
The food stalls close and entertainment winds down. Everyone starts to congregate by the exit, ready for the torchlit procession.
This was possibly my favourite part of the evening (aside from winning a medal). At 10pm a procession of locals, tourists and competitors winds its way back down the hill into Chipping Campden.
Anyone can buy a torch from the stall and take part. It’s probably a good idea that no alcohol is consumed on the hill given there are several hundred people carrying naked flames back along the roads. It’s great fun and there’s a lovely camaraderie amongst all those taking part.
Once back in Chipping Campden there was music from Uncle Funk and the Boogie Wonderland. We didn’t stick around as bed was calling but I’m sure it was an entertaining end to the evening.
If you fancy visiting the games, or even taking part, visit the Cotswold Olimpick Games website for further information.