Men in armor with big weapons, hell-bent on doing one another some serious damage, is not a sight you’d expect to see at the Olympics, but that could all change if a petition by English Heritage to include jousting at the Games takes off.
Jousting has its roots in Greece, but it was made popular by William the Bastard, or William the Conquerer as he’s more affectionately known. The first jousting tournament in England took place in 1066.
It was organized by Frenchman Godfrey de Preuilly after Willy boy and his Norman knights defeated the Saxon hordes of King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings,and felt the need to hone their equine and lance skills even further.
When Harold was killed during the battle by an arrow in the eye, William the Bastard’s victory marked the traditional end of the Dark Ages in England, and a new golden dawn of chivalry and honor was born, at least according to the French invaders.
In such an era when peasants could be hunted like rabbits and the elite lived in castles, the sport of jousting became immensely popular. A rather vicious pastime, it was a bit like the polo of its day, but with more blood and guts.
It involves two men dressed in armor and charging at each other on horseback in an attempt to knock their opponent to the ground with a 12-foot stick called a lance.
The flat-out gallop of up to 30mph, element of danger, and unpredictability of jousting make it far more of a high-octane spectator sport than much of the mind-numbingly boring Olympic snooze fare, yet this most noble and ancient of sports has always been denied Olympic status.
Although the popularity of the sport waned after King Henry II was killed during a joust in 1559, a few hardcore participants are determined to make the sport massive again.
The BBC reports that English Heritage’s jousting expert Dominic Sewell believes the medieval pursuit was a “worldwide phenomenon that should be recognized” with Olympic status.
There are only 20 competitive jousters in the UK, but tournaments are held across the world in such countries as Belgium, Brazil, and New Zealand.
Mr Sewell believes it’ll be a long road to get jousting accepted by International Olympic Committee (IOC) but believes there are “encouraging signs.”
“Just like the Olympic British equestrian team, we ride beautiful horses to an exceptional level.
“Jousting requires a huge amount of skill and a daily training regime. One has to be strong, not just physically but mentally, so you can sit fearlessly in your saddle, face your rival, and offer yourself as a target”.
Mr Sewell who used to work as a furniture assembly operative in a factory, became a full-time jouster after getting involved with historical re-enactments. He believes those who joust are sportsman, not actors, and that the sport is relatively safe in the modern era
“As soon as I got on a horse everything changed and I thought ‘this is what I want to do, I want to be good at this.’
“Jousting today is quite a safe sport to take part in. The rules are essentially that you are in a single combat situation, in a designated area, in a pitch – or ’tilt-yard’ – and in that yard is a tilt rail.
“These days injuries are few and far between… but the odd un-horsing might result in a few bruises.”
In the U.S., Maryland’s official state sport is jousting, and competitors have also launched a similar Olympic bid for it to be recognized on the biggest stage of all.
As part of the Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC will address the inclusion of jousting in future games and a spokesperson said, “One recommendation was to make the Olympic program more flexible by moving from a sport-based to an event-based program.”
Olympic bids for karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing and baseball/softball have all been supported by the IOC to join the program for Tokyo 2020.
The Inquisitr earlier reported on a list of sport the 2016 Olympics were crazy to ignore, and they included bog snorkeling, kite flying, tractor racing, cheerleading, stone skimming, gravy wrestling and backwards running, to name a few. But hey, if jousting gets the green light, the future of the Olympics could get a lot more interesting with such a possible array of disciplines involved.
[Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images]