Robert Dover’s Cotswold Olympicks – 400 years and counting

By , 3rd June 2010 21:02

Updated 22 Feb 2012

Whether your passion is the Five Mile Run, the Championship of the Hill or the British Shin Kicking Championships, Robert Dover’s Cotswold Olympicks should be at the top of the list of ‘must-attend’ events for sporting historians in 2012.

This unique British institution takes place in and around Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds and dates back to at least 1612.   The programme explains what’s in store for the 400th anniversary Olympicks on Friday 1 June 2012.

Conceived by Robert Dover, a Norfolk-born lawyer, in around 1612, the Cotswold Olympics were staged annually until the outbreak of the Engish Civil War in 1642. The Games were resurrected with the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and continued until the enclosure of Dover’s Hill in 1852. They were revived for a second time in 1951 for the Festival of Britain and became an annual event again from 1966.

As the crow flies, Chipping Campden is around 50 miles, or 80 km, from Much Wenlock. As the Cotswold Olympicks were still in existence when the first Much Wenlock Olympian Games were organised by William Penny Brookes in 1850, it is more than likely that the man who inspired De Coubertin to create the modern Olympics was himself influenced by Robert Dover.

The 2012 Olympic Torch Relay will visit Chipping Campden on Sunday 1 July. This welcome, but all-to-rare instance of the Relay show-casing Britain’s sporting heritage highlights the convention that the Relay tends to avoid visiting other events for fear of falling victim to ambush marketing, traffic jams or both. This practice means that Relays can’t take advantage of the crowds generated by other events. Equally, it can be argued that brands sponsoring the Relay would be perceived as more approachable and less aloof if they were seen to be engaging with local events that play an important role within their communities.

Watch this video for a flavour of the ancient art of Shin Kicking.

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