India’s Rural Games Amazes with Bizarre Athletic Competitions

Melissa Knowles

Last summer, I witnessed some of the greatest sporting events of my lifetime while I covered the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. It was one of the most varied athletic events that I had ever seen or could hope to see. And then I was introduced to the Kila Raipur Sports Festival, popularly known as the Indian Rural Games.

Dating back to 1933, the Indian Rural Games may inspire more cringes than oohs and aahs to onlookers unfamiliar with the competitions. Some of the events feature people lifting heavy objects (such as stacks of bricks) with their teeth, speedily tying turbans, and lying on the ground while tractors roll over them. These unusual events are mixed with motorbike stunts, dancing, and a race for participants over age 80. There are also competitions featuring camels, dogs, and other animals.

The three-day festival is a celebration of India's farming communities, and it's gaining attention and new fans around the world. Nearly a million people show up for the event, which occurs every February. It's unlikely that many of the festival's events will find crossover success, though, so don't expect to see athletes hoisting bricks with their teeth at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

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