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Visit Robert Dover's Cotswold Olimpicks

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The Olympic Games in modern times are a flashy affair watched by a worldwide audience thanks to the wonders of television.

But in ancient times in a small village in the Cotswolds there was a sister event that was a less glamorous affair altogether – but still just as much fun for a day out.

Robert Dover's Cotswold Olimpicks has been taking place for 400 years in historic Chipping Camden, where men go shin-to-shin in a battle to the bitter end.

Dover was an earl from Norfolk who began the event with the royal permission of King James I, who thought it would be a nice idea to fashion an English event based on the ever so slightly more famous goings on of the same name in Greece.

And so each year since, on the Friday after Spring Bank Holiday, the games have taken place on Dover Hill. Each of the competitors is dressed in outfits authentic to the period in which it began and events that are held include running races, jumping contests and throwing competitions.

There was once a sword fight in the line up, but this was axed - for want of a better word - after a competitor lost a finger.

He avenged this loss of a digit but slicing off his competitor's nose – and so the sword fight part of the proceedings came to an end.

As well as all this, there is an obstacle race, a hammer throwing event and spurning the barre -] a long shaft of wood like a caber.

But the most famous of the Olimpicks's events is shin-kicking, which is a test of endurance to see who can be the last man - or woman - standing.

Anyone can join in the event and all contestants don a long white coat, which represents the garb of a shepherd. Competitors then place their hands on the shoulders of their opponents and begin to swipe at their shins. When one falls to the ground, the other is declared the victor.

However, those taking part do get some shin padding.

For the more mild mannered, there is a tug of war and a torchlight parade to round off the celebrations.

Dover's Hill is a picturesque setting for the events, overlooking the Vale of Evesham, which offers extensive views out over the plains of the Avon and the Severn to the Welsh mountains.


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