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Village ‘Olympics’ starts near Lucknow

It’s an “Olympics” with a difference. Villagers from seven north Indian states are fighting for top honours in games as bizarre as Milking a Buffalo, Milkman’s Cycle Race and Loading a Tractor Trolley with Grain Sacks, reports Pankaj Jaiswal.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2009 13:49 IST
Pankaj Jaiswal

It’s an “Olympics” with a difference. Villagers from seven north Indian states are fighting for top honours in games as bizarre as Milking a Buffalo, Milkman’s Cycle Race and Loading a Tractor Trolley with Grain Sacks.

Even the buffaloes looked puzzled when they were milked frantically. Men milked the cattle faster than any milking machine can ever do. This a “practice session” for the Milking a buffalo contest in the Grameen Olympic Khel (Rural Olympics) that began in Juggaur village, in Chinhat block of Lucknow on Thursday morning.

The other games include Milkman’s Cycle Race, Throwing a Brick, Running with the Front Wheel of a Tractor and, in a sign that modern technology is now an integral part of rural life, SMS Typing Speed Contest.

The prizes: tins of desi ghee, instead of medals. The top four participants in each discipline win prizes.

About 500 participants from Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Himanchal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are taking part in the Grameen Olympic Khel (Rural Olympics), which features 32 “rural games”.

Though the Uttar Pradesh Non-Olympic Association (UPNOA), which is organizing the event, is calling it “Olympics”, only teams from villages in north Indian states are participating. UPNOA is affiliated to the Indian Non-Olympic Association and the International Non-Olympic Association.

This is the first time that a national rural sports meet is being held on such a scale in a village.

Mukesh, the captain of the Haryana team, which trounced the Rae Bareilly team in a kabaddi match, said: “We all are rural sportsperson, but we’ve never ever witnessed or been part of such a rural sports meet. This is amazing.”

But the UP boys got their own back in the Milkman’s Cycle Race and Swimming in a Canal. Another Mukesh, also representing Haryana, exclaimed: “Uff, it was really tough to swim in the canal with such a strong flow.” He came fifth and rued missing out on a tin of ghee, and the honour associated with it, by few seconds.

Age is no bar for participation. For instance, a 50-year-old man took part in the Swimming in a Canal race against, among others, an 11-year-old boy.

What about food and lodging for the sportspersons and officials? The fare is simple – only village food, like puri-sabzi and tehri (rice and vegetables cooked together), is on offer.

“We are hosting the event. We have made all arrangements for the hospitality of our guests in the village itself,” said Ram Manohar Yadav, gram pradhan (village headman) of Juggaur.

The costs are minimal. The participants are being put up in the village school; the villagers are pitching in with the food; and the UPNOA has paid for the travel arrangements out of its own resources.

PK Dutta, general secretary of UPNOA, said: “The objective of holding these games is to promote traditional, ancient and rural sports, to encourage a different kind of community entertainment, and community interaction, and hunt for sporting talent in rural areas.”

The non-participating residents of the village sat on trees, on culverts, on rooftops and around the arena cheering and jeering their favourite players.

The following is an illustrative list of “games” at the first “rural Olympics”.

Milking a Buffalo
Milkman’s Cycle Race
Swimming in a Canal
Kabaddi
Volleyball
SMS Typing Speed Contest
Kite Flying
Tug-of-war
Chess
Surbagghi (an indigenous version of Chinese checkers)
Gilli Danda
Pitthu
Hopscotch
Potter’s Wheel (making earthen pots in a given span of time)
Throwing a Brick
Loading a Tractor Trolley with Grain Sacks
Running with the Front Wheel of a Tractor
Weaving Straw Baskets
Skipping (with an ordinary jute rope)
Embroidery