Anti-Pope Games, Avignon – France – 4

Excerpt from the book Sports the Olympics Forgot This book describes 40 sports that ought to be played but aren’t, because I made them up.


Dating from 1645 the oldest athletics event is the papal shot-putt where contestants have to land their throws in a papal mitre that is placed 15 metres and 23 centimetres from the rim of the shot-putt circle. Each contestant is allowed six attempts at this accuracy contest and the winner is the person who lands their putt in the hat the most times. Hugo Benjamin Draxler won the event 13 times between 1794 and 1831.

Draxler has been an important figure in the Games as he also lobbied the organizers to introduce a spear throwing contest where the aim and the rules were literally the same as those of the shot-putt contest. After the success of the Summer Olympics both a discus and a hammer contest were introduced in 1927 with the Papal Mitre situated 76 metres and 5 centimetres from the throwing circle. No-one has ever won the Discus event and the Hammer event has been won just once in 1958 by the Soviet Anatoli Timofftichuk.

The second oldest event is the team pope-carrying race. The original ceremonial throne was mainly used to carry popes to and from papal ceremonies in the Basilica of St. John Lateran and St. Peter’s Basilica. At the anti-pope games though this has become a cross-country race for five people – one person dresses as the pope and is carried by the other four through the streets of Avignon and around the countryside for a distance of ten miles.

At no point must the Pope’s mitre fall off or the team will be penalized 95 seconds of time. This is not as easy as it sounds because at various points on the course ten citizens of Avignon are allowed to throw bread at the throne in an attempt to knock off the Pope’s hat. The Pope is only allowed to defend himself against the bread using his crozier. If the Pope uses other means to repel the bread, such as a tennis racket or baseball bat, then his team are penalized a further 95 seconds and must run the gauntlet of the bread-throwing Avignon citizens once again.

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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