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      April 2012 > Support our Olimpick heroes

Support our Olimpick heroes

Cotswold Olympicks, Walking holiday in the CotswoldsYes, the spelling is correct – as I’m not referring to those other Olympics in London. I’m talking about the real Olimpicks, the first modern revival of the ancient Games, held in rural Gloucestershire long before Pierre de Coubertin even dreamed of founding his Olympic Committee in the 1880s…

In 1612, during the reign of Charles I, an English solicitor, Robert Dover, came up with the idea of a sporting event to enable the young men of the area to engage in various competitive trials in a friendly and good humoured atmosphere or, in his words “for the training of the youth in manly sports and for the harmless mirthe and jollitie of the neighbourhood".

Educated in Cambridge and as a solicitor in Gray’s Inn, Dover had a sound knowledge of classical history and saw his ‘Olimpicks’ as an homage to the ancient Games of Greece – and also as a protest against the growing Puritanism of the time.

Cotswold Olympicks, Walking holiday in the CotswoldsThroughout the two-day event, Dover was seen directing operations from his white horse, wearing a distinctive plumed hat that once belonged to James I. As a staunch royalist, his games found favour with the king, Charles I, and also with Prince Rupert (the king’s nephew) who supposedly visited in 1636.

History was to intervene, however, and the Olimpicks were soon interrupted by the Civil War (1642-1651) and the Restoration in 1660, though they managed to keep going until 1852. A hundred years later, they were revived as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations in 1951 and since then, have grown from strength to strength.

For a chance to witness this year’s Olimpicks, why not combine this great sporting event with a walking holiday in the Cotswolds? You need to be on Dover’s Hill, a small plateau overlooking the Vale of Evesham near the Cotswold town of Chipping Campden, on Friday 1 June, 2pm ‘til midnight. Sports, including such classics as shin-kicking (with shin pads consisting of straw stuffed down the socks!), shot putting, hammer throwing and sack and obstacle races, draw in crowds of up to 5,000 spectators – after a colourful and well-choreographed opening ceremony, of course. Look and learn, London

Cotswold Olympicks, Walking holiday in the Cotswolds

[All photographs kind permission of Betty Stocker.]

Posted: 19/04/2012 08:43:42 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: festivals, heritage, UK

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