THE CHAP OLYMPIAD
Britain’s most eccentric sporting event takes place once a year in the leafy enclosure of Bedford Square Gardens in London’s Bloomsbury. Not since the days of Bee versus Pigeon Racing during Victorian times have so many befuddled dandies and gin-addled debutantes been gathered together under one parasol to make mockery of the whole idea of sport.
Instead of rewarding athletes for breaking a sweat and running around in Lycra sportswear, the events at the Chap Olympiad make a virtue of slipping over on the field at the crucial moment. Appalling attempts to hit a table tennis ball, swinging on the end of a fishing line, are applauded, as is contestants’ efforts to achieve a mighty slap on the rump during Riding Crop Rumpus.
Contestants who claim to be a wiz on the velocipede have their powers put to the test in Umbrella Jousting, where the aim of the game is to knock your opponent off their bicycle with an unfurled umbrella. Further cycling challenges emerge during Tea Pursuit, in which one contestant must fill her team-mate’s cup from a teapot without spilling a drop on her own voluminous vintage dress.
All the events are designed to put chappish skills to the test, while maintaining proper decorum and immaculate raiment throughout. A gentleman may excel at Louche Libre – but if the judges aver that his Mexican wrestling mask is slightly off kilter at the end, points will be deducted. Similarly, should the on-site butler find that the creases in the Fake Trews diverge from the vertical, the sloppy contestant could be looking at relegation.
All the gentlemanly and ladylike disciplines are put to the test during the Chap Olympiad. Never mind whether you can run a mile in a pair of shorts or kick a ball around a field for 90 minutes – if you can’t handle a bowler hat well enough to knock the head of a James Bond mannequin, you just won’t cut the mustard.
Not so handy with hurling headwear? Then try your hand at Tie Versus Cravat, in which the judges are looking for pleasing aesthetic displays with giant versions of these essential items of neckwear. The acquisition of points, as with most of the events, rely on a subtle interpretation of the rules, displays of panache and elegance – even a spot of underhand skulduggery is overlooked, as long as one makes a favourable impression on the audience.
Inadeqate use of stimulants is also frowned upon at this event. Any Chap Olympian who is acting in a way that suggests low alcohol levels is marched off to the emergency gin tent for a swift top up. In severe cases, a team of nurses rushes to the unfortunate athlete, to whisk him off on a stretcher attached to a drip filled with Bloody Mary. Contestants who don’t wish to suffer such humiliation can keep themselves fully topped up throughout the day, from a plethora of dedicated bars, serving Olympic-themed cocktails, beers, wines, champagnes and spirits.
All contestants are encouraged to wear their finest dandy raiment, the more unsuitable for sport the better – since the word “sport” has been effectively turned on its head at the Chap Olympiad.