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Already famous for its unusual and quirky events, listed here in this brochure, Llanwrtyd Wells is now proud to present: The World Alternative Games 2016.
The Coolest Place to be in 2016 (Lonely Planet), the idea for the Games was born after it was announced that London would be hosting the Olympics in 2012. As one of the greatest sporting events on the calendar, it seemed a wasted opportunity not to hold some sort of celebration in Llanwrtyd to commemorate this.
And so, with this in mind, a small group of people came up with an idea - what about holding Llanwrtyd's very own version of the Olympic Games, but with all the normal events thrown out of the window and replaced with an array of unrecognised and different events that are not part of the official Olympic calendar. These events have competitors who are just as dedicated to their unusual sports as their Olympian counterparts, and what better time to promote as many of these exciting and imaginative events as possible;
The first Games held in 2012 proved a great success with over 2000 competitors taking part in 35 events, from Worm Charming to Chariot Racing, from the Bathtubbing Championship to the Wife Carrying Championships.
Media interest was exceptional with coverage in countries such as Australia, Russia, Argentina, U.S.A., Canada and New Zealand, as well as all over Britain.
The event was awarded with runners up spot in the Powys Business Awards and best event in the Welsh National Tourism Awards.
The 2014 Games is even bigger and better with some 60 events hosted over the two weeks.
There are days designed purely for the youngsters, with child-friendly events such as Pooh Sticks and Rock, Paper, Scissors and taster sessions by courtesy of Manor Adventure. Events that are held every year in Llanwrtyd, such as the World Bog Snorkelling Championships and the Man versus Horse Marathon will also be part of the World Alternative Games in 2014, and there are a variety of cycling events to participate in. We are even spending some time down in Newport as the Under 16 and Under19 international Underwater Hockey Championships come under the Games umbrella. The World Bathtubbing Championships have their first round in Christchurch New Zealand in February and there are a couple more rounds during the lead up to the games with round 4 being held during the event calendar and there will be other exciting fun in the sun events taking place in Llanelli. The final round will take place in Cardiff International White Water Centre in September.
The Games will be run under the ethos of the Corinthian Spirit. Although there are no plans to take away the competitive edge of the Games, with gold, silver and bronze medals being awarded for first, second and third placed competitors, it was agreed from the start that taking part should be what really counts, and that everybody who visits Llanwrtyd, either as a competitor or a spectator, should have fun and get as involved as possible. Everybody who takes part in an event will get a Corinthian medal too.
We are also in the process of showcasing what Wales can offer with its Culture, Heritage and Hospitality with a series of evening activities to compliment the days competitions.
Whether you come as a spectator or to take part, we encourage you to help raise money for charity, either one of our official partners or a charity of your choice and we will have official World Alternative Games sponsor forms available for downloading off our website.
Why not come and holiday in Wales and see what we have got to be proud of.
We look forward to seeing you there!
In 1979 the business people in Llanwrtyd Wells, the smallest town in Britain with a population of 600, came together and started a Tourist Association, open to all traders in the town with the object of improving the economy of Llanwrtyd Wells. This had steadily declined since its heyday in the late 19th century. The town was built specifically to accommodate the many tourists eager to sample the fresh air, the mineral waters and the beautiful surroundings of Llanwrtyd Wells which was made very accessible when the railway line (Swansea-Shrewsbury or Heart of Wales Line) came through the town in the 1860s. The town attracted many of the South Wales industrial population, eager to get out of the smog-fuelled atmosphere and breathe the fresh air of the Mid Wales mountains. They came to drink the many mineral waters found in the town and the sulphur water was a great favourite (tuppence a pint!). Hotels were built, complete with golf courses, tennis courts and bowling greens.
After the second world war, the town was in serious decline as the attraction of spa towns dropped with the advent of patent medicines. Pony trekking arrived in the early 50s, the first centre in Wales. It was mainly organised by the local farmers. By the 1970s, the intense competition and the increasing insurance and health and safety issues caused a steep decline in this very popular activity.
It was decided by the Tourist Association that events should be organised, one new one every year if possible, which would draw back the tourists into the town. The first such event was the Man versus Horse Marathon, second Saturday in June, and came about when the landlord of the Neuadd Arms Hotel, Gordon Green MBE TD, had a conversation, late at night, in the bar with Glyn Jones, the local Huntsman, when Gordon had the audacity to suggest that a runner would be faster than a horse over a long distance over the difficult terrain of the Cambrian Mountains. Glyn, of course, disagreed so it was decided to put it up to the test over a 22-mile circuit around Llanwrtyd Wells. Glyn did win that first race in a resounding 40 minutes. Now the race was born and from those small beginnings the race has grown into an International Running Event. In 1985, mountain bikes were introduced into Llanwrtyd Wells when the first Mountain Bike Centre in Britain was started in Llanwrtyd by Tim Gartside and bikes took part in the 1985 event, the first mountain bike race in Britain won by Jacqui Phelan from the United States. The race was sponsored by William Hill who, every year, put £1,000 into the pot for the first runner to beat the first horse in the race and on our 25th anniversary of the race in 2004 the horse was finally beaten by a runner, Huw Lobb, who beat Zoe White riding Keebee, and won £25,000. Three years later a German runner, Florian Holzingen, also beat the first horse and won £3,000. William Hill always brought along Screaming Lord Sutch to the event that brought a sense of amusement to the race as the Master of Ceremony. He performed his last gig at the Neuadd after the 1999 event and died a few days later. His memorial plaque, unveiled by Cynthia Payne (Madam Sin) lies on the wall of the Neuadd Arms. The race is now recognised throughout the world and attracts some 800 runners and 60 horse riders which make it the largest horse race in Britain.
1981: Welsh International Four Days Walks (mid-September)
Modelled on the Nijmegan Four Days Walks in Holland consists of four days of walking 25, 15 or 10 miles per day, so it was decided to put this event on and the Great Outdoors magazine sponsored us. The event attracts walkers from all over the world. Routes are way marked, marshalled and have refreshment stops. All participants receive certificates.
1982: Drovers' Walk (last Saturday in June)
Another challenge walk, following along the old drovers' roads of Mid-Wales wherever possible, with check points serving beers in the remains of old drovers' pubs along the way – Grouse Inn (Abergwesyn), Spite Inn (Tirabad), Drovers' Arms (Eppynt), Cross Inn (Tirabad).
1983: Mid-Wales Beer Festival (Annual 10 days around 20th November)
Ffairbont Festival held every 20th November was a very important day in Llanwrtyd Wells with farmers hiring their staff for the year, paying their bills for the year and a carnival atmosphere for the children. It was considered that a beer festival would recognise the old traditions of the Ffairbont so the first beer festival was held over a weekend in all the four pubs of the town. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was very helpful in promoting and helping in organising the event, which was an instant success. Now the event is held over 10 days and some 160 different real ales are served around the four pubs.
1984: Real Ale Ramble (second weekend of the Beer Festival)
Usual option of 10, 15 or 25 way marked miles over the hills and mountains, this time with real ale barrels of beer at strategic checkpoints (limited to 2 x ½ pints at each!). The first one was notable as the guide (Trevor Fennel) lost his way in the forest and could not find the beer (he never did live this down).
1985: Red Kite Mountain Bike Centre
Gordon Green had seen a poster for a mountain bike rally to be held on the Black Mountains during the Summer of 1984. Intrigued, he went along to the event, introduced himself to the organiser (Tim Gartside, an Australian) who demonstrated a mountain bike. Gordon was very impressed with it and invited Tim Gartside to Llanwrtyd Wells, as it transpired that he was looking for a site in Wales to set up a Mountain Bike Centre. This he did, and he was very impressed with the area and its potential for mountain bikes. He set up the first Mountain Bike Centre in Britain after the famous Easter weekend when people connected with mountain biking from around the World came to this famous launch. It was also at this time that a letter was received from Jacqui Phelan, the women's mountain bike champion of America, who had read an article in the National Geographical Magazine about the Man versus Horse race and suggested that mountain bikes should be put into the race. This was done in 1985 and it was the first mountain bike race to be held in Britain. Garry Fisher, who developed mountain biking in the early '80s, sent Jacqui over to Llanwrtyd and she duly won the mountain bike section of the race.
1986: World Bog Snorkelling Championships (every August Bank Holiday weekend)
A meeting was held in the Neuadd Arms to discuss how the community could raise funds to build a community centre. It was late at night in the bar of the Neuadd when we were still trying to think of an event that Canadian Club had put up as a challenge when Iris Shrigley suddenly said that the only thing she had in her garden was a bog and this was followed by, “well, let's snorkel in it”. So, a channel was dug in a local bog and the event was held. The event made the attraction of the media and is now known around the world and bog snorkelling events are held in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Australia and Sweden.
1987: Lord Crawshaw Memorial Walk (first weekend in February)
Dick Crawshaw OBE TD DL was an MP for Toxteth and Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. Gordon had invited him to the inaugural Four Days Walks and he attended every one with his wife, Audrey, until his death in 1986. He was at the time Lord Crawshaw of Aintree and was the first SDP Peer. This walk is organised in his memory and a tribute to his contribution to walking. On two occasions he broke the World Non-Stop Walking Record by walking 255 miles non-stop around Aintree Racecourse for charity.
1988: New Year Walk-In and Mari Lwyd (Annual)
Before the new year, a 1½ mile torchlight procession takes place around Llanwrtyd Wells together with a traditional “Mari Lwyd” (decorated horse's skull), a traditional Welsh custom at the new year. The new year is celebrated around the Square with a steel band followed by lively music in the various hostelries.
1989: Way marked Routes for Walkers and Mountain Cyclists
In conjunction with Mike Ives (CTC) and the late Chris Marley seven mountain bike routes were developed and way marked with plastic markers. Unfortunately, the Forestry Commission in 2007, unilaterally and without any discussion with the community, removed all markers on their land thereby making the routes untenable. This action substantially reduced the number of mountain cyclists coming to the area and was responsible for a reduction of mountain bike tourism in the area.
1990: Red Kite Mountain Bike Four Days Bash (early in August)
Originally sponsored by Mountain Bike (UK) magazine, the rides were held over 25 and 50 miles way marked routes in October. Now held in an August Festival event.
1991: Llanwrtyd Wells Annual Cull (held every 10 years)
Llanwrtyd Wells (population 600 now 700) is the smallest town in Britain and when the National Census takes place (every 10 years) an Annual Cull to keep it the smallest town in Britain takes place. This creates a lot of media publicity around the world. Unfortunately, in 2001, because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak, we could not organise the event because of all the sheep that were being culled around the town.
1992: Morris in the Forest (July)
Kate Lomax, who was living in Llanwrtyd, and her brother organised the Morris in the Forest event, held over a weekend. Many varied Morris Dance sides took part and the town was a hive of processions and dancing groups with workshops, etc. Real ale was provided in the forests around town and a walk organised within them. Unfortunately, the dance groups could not find suitable facilities for their camping accommodation and the Morris in the Forest has now been cancelled.
1993: Saturnalia Festival and World Mountain Bike Chariot Race (first weekend in January)
Following the success of the Mid-Wales Beer Festival it was suggested that a Winter Warmer Beer Festival should be organised and Bryn Davies suggested that this should take place as a Saturnalia Festival, the traditional Roman festival celebrating the new year. This was organised with suitably strong real ale and food prepared from the recipes of Apicius such as Roasted Stuffed Testicles and Numidian Chicken. A wine called Absinthium was prepared (courtesy of Glenys who provided the wormwood from her garden!) Walks are organised with beer at the checkpoints and Toga Parties organised in the evening. The World Mountain Bike Chariot Race also takes place around the Abernant Hotel during the day.
1994: Real Ale Wobble (Annually in November)
Held in conjunction with the Mid-Wales Beer Festival on the first weekend. A way marked mountain bike ride around the area with free real ale at the various checkpoints (limited and controlled, of course). Held over two days, attracting many hundreds of mountain bikers with lively entertainments in the evening.
1995: Sosban Fach Festival (one-off celebrating 100 years)
This was held in Britannia House to celebrate the very famous song, Sosban Fach that was composed for, and first performed at, Llanwrtyd Wells Eisteddfod 100 years ago.
1995: Community Enterprise Llanwrtyd Wells Tourism (CELT)
This organisation, supported by Gareth Jones from Powys County Council, was set up in the TIC. Originally the Tourist Association was part of CELT but was later absorbed by CELT. It was during this period that it was decided to set up all events under a limited company to reduce the risk of organisers being sued and Green Events Ltd by guarantee was founded in 2001. It was estimated at this time that all events were bringing in £1,500,000 to the economy of the town. CELT was dissolved in 2007.
1996: Folk 'n' Ale Festival
A traditional folk festival with real ales was held in the various free houses of the town. Not held now for a number of years.
1997: World Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championships (August Bank Holiday weekend)
A trench 6 feet deep was prepared in Waen Rydd bog complete with ramp suitable for mountain cyclists, on specially weighted bikes, to snorkel 25 feet under water. The bikes are filled with lead and the tyres filled with water. The cyclist wears a lead weighted belt and a rucksack filled with rocks.
1998/99: Red Kite Town Structure
The Tourist Association had regular meetings and often a guest speaker was invited. One such speaker, Tim Wade from Llanafan, suggested that we hold a sculpture symposium, invite sculptors, give them food, accommodations, materials, etc, and they would leave their sculptures behind to enhance the town. At a later date, a mountain biker who said he was a sculptor, offered to produce a sculpture for the town's square. This was accepted and Sandy O'Connor produced this magnificent red kite sculpture which now dominates the centre of the town. The total cost to the community was £2,000 as all the work undertaken was voluntary. Most of the digging, transportation, etc, was undertaken by Wally and Timmy Evans.
2000: Millenium Walk-In
The town organised a Millenium Walk-In which was promoted by the national media as one of the best places in Britain to celebrate the Millenium.
2001: Gourmet Food Festival
Peter James MBE, owner of The Drovers' Rest Tea Rooms, like the rest of the community, devastated by the effect of the foot and mouth outbreak, decided that this catastrophy for tourism should be tackled head-on and organised the Gourmet Food Festival which was a great success and was held until 2011 when funding was withdrawn by the Welsh Assembly.
2002: Carriage Drive (Annually in September)
This is an event organised by Roger and Emma Stevens from the Lasswade Hotel.
2004: Welsh Music Festival - Memorial to Susan George
Susan George was the lead singer in Mabsant, a famous Welsh music group. She and her husband, Roger, enjoyed performing in the Neuadd Arms Hotel, especially when John Davies organised Welsh learning weekends with many famous musicians present such as Robin Bowen, a famous triple-harpist.
2005: World Bog Snorkelling Triathlon (August Bank Holiday weekend)
This event, organised by Peter Brown, comprises three elements: a run of 8 miles, followed by bog snorkelling 120 yards of the bog followed with a mountain bike ride of 19 miles, which is an arduous event but juniors, seniors and ladies have a reduced schedule.
2007: Monster Raving Loony Party Festival
Llanwrtyd Wells was a retreat for Screaming Lord Sutch who always attended the Man versus Horse Marathon along with our sponsors, William Hill. The Neuadd Arms Hotel was made the official headquarters of the Monster Raving Loony Party and was the last place he ever played before his untimely death three days later on June 19th, 1999. The festival was held in his honour and was attended by many of his friends and musicians including the Savages, who played in the Victoria Hall.
2009: Ron Skilton Memorial Half Marathon (latter half of October)
Ron Skilton was a great supporter of all events in the town and for many years was Treasurer of Green Events. This half marathon is a memorial to Ron. His wife Irene, and family attend the race to marshal and present the prizes.
2011: Welsh Open Stone Skimming Championships (May)
This is a sport that anyone can take part in. Natural or artificial stones can be used and competitors can bring their own.
2012: World Alternative Games
Initial thoughts began in the Summer of 2009, after it was known that the Olympic Games would be held in London, with very little of the action taking place in Wales, Gordon Green MBE TD contacted Visit Wales and proposed that Llanwrtyd Wells should organise the World Alternative Games, immediately after the Olympic and before the Paralympics, which would be appropriate as Llanwrtyd Wells is the smallest town in Britain and London is the largest city. This proposal of two weeks of fun, quirky and outdoor events, with the object of promoting Wales, Llanwrtyd Wells, and the various events, was accepted by Visit Wales who knew that our events are a very important ingredient for promoting Wales at home and overseas. They proposed this idea to the Welsh Assembly who agreed to promote the Games as one of Wales's major events. Financial support was given from the Welsh Assembly Government, Tourism Partnership and Powys County Council and the first meeting to discuss the Games took place on 23rd November 2009. At a later meeting it was decided that a separate committee and company would be set up with Peter Brown elected Chairman and Karen Perkins, Secretary. The committee then embarked on the mammoth task of organising the event for the 17th August to 2nd September 2012 (55 committee meetings).
To achieve our aims we used our existing 12 events organised by Green Events, then we took other alternative, quirky, events from around the world, plus other events that organisations asked us to include. By the time we had added our own events, we had a total of 36 in 2012 and 60 in 2014. Some of the events, such as the Man versus Horse Marathon, take place outside the main games.
Our inaugural Games, 17th August-2nd September 2012, started with an Opening Ceremony in which sulphur water taken from the natural spring in the Dol-y-Coed was taken by mountain bike chariots to the fountain in the centre of Llanwrtyd Wells and this water flowed throughout the Games until the closing ceremony when the water was ceremonially returned, by the children of the town, to the Wells.
Some events of the World Alternative Games take place in other parts of Wales such as the Underwater Hockey Championships, which were held in the Newport Swimming Pool, and the Bathtubbing Championships in North Wales.
Over 2,000 competitors took part in the 2012 Games, which comprised of such diverse events as the World Bog Snorkelling Championships, Worm Charming, Russian Egg Roulette, Wife Carrying Championships and Stone Skimming. The Finnish wife carrying champion came over from Finland, as did the Swedish bog snorkelling champion from Sweden.
The Games are also known as the “Corinithian Games” where “taking part is more important than winning” and every person that takes part in the Games receives the Corinithian Medal and a gold, silver and bronze medal for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd competitors. There are days designed purely for youngsters with child friendly events such as Pooh Sticks and Rock, Paper and Scissors and taster sessions at the Manor Adventure. Events that are held every year in Llanwrtyd Wells, by Green Events, such as the World Bog Snorkelling Championships are also part of the World Alternative Games.
Quirky new events are being added all the time such as Ping Pongo and Finger Jousting. Llanwrtyd Wells is twinned with Meriel, a French town, and they usually visit the Games and take part in many of the events. A number of Welsh towns and locations such as Pendine Sands, Whitland Bay, St Clears, Newport and Llanelli will also be partaking in our Games.
The World Alternative Games will also be featured at the Royal Welsh Show, in the Sports Wales Arena, where a number of our events will be demonstrated throughout the four days.
The objectives of the World Alternative Games are to improve the economy of Wales, Llanwrtyd Wells and the profile of the individual events. It is considered that this has been achieved and it is estimated that all the events improve the economy of Llanwrtyd Wells by £2,000,000 annually.
1997: Winners, Western Mail “Excellence in Marketing” Award
2002: Winners, Welsh Tourist Board “Community Tourism” Award
2004: Winners, Welsh Tourist Board “Excellence in Marketing” Award
2005: Winners, National Tourism Board “Top Day Out in Wales”
World Alternative Games
2013: Finalist, Visit Wales “National Tourism” Award
2013: Runner Up Powys Business Awards
2014: Most Fun Event in Europe
2016: Top 50 Bucket list of things to do in Wales
2013: Gordon Green MBE TD, Visit Wales “Outstanding Achievement” Award
2014: Gordon Green MBE TD, Prime Minister's “Points of Light” Award
Gordon was awarded an MBE in 2001 for his services to tourism
MBE OStJ AMMinister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science
I would like to extend a very warm Welsh Welcome to all participants and visiting spectators at the World Alternative Games, staged in Britain's smallest town, Llanwrtyd Wells.
The World Alternative Games is one of many compelling events across Wales this summer supported by the Welsh Government.
The Games, which take place over two weeks ( in the gap between the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games) comprise a diverse range of fun, quirky outdoor activities incorporating well established favourites such as the World Bog Snorkelling Championships and the Man versus Horse Marathon.
I'm delighted that communities in mid Wales are playing host to an event that aims to attract thousands of visitors to the area and the impact of this perfect antidote to other more conventional and pressurised competitive environments will, without doubt, resonate far and wide...
I 'd like to extend my best wishes to the organisers, the participants and to each and every visitor for what promises to be a spectacular festival of fun.
Let the Games begin!
MP for Brecon and Radnorshire
Brecon and Radnor has been left on periphery of this summers Olympic Games, but fortunately Llanwrtyd Wells, which is no stranger to unusual and quirky events, is bringing the Corinthian spirit of the Games to Wales.
The World Alternative Games is not your ordinary athletics meet, and I am delighted to see that we in Mid Wales are embracing a slightly different take on what will be an amazing summer of sport.
I am sure I will be one of many who are ignorant of the rules and technicalities around ‘worm charming’ or the ‘Bathtubbing Championships’, but there is definitely something heart warming about the prospect of playing ‘Pooh sticks’ on the international stage.
What remains at the core of this event is the spirit of taking part, demonstrating the creativity and imagination of those within our constituency to hold such amazing games, challenges and activities that are accessible to all. It will also be an opportunity to showcase our wonderful countryside to the whole world and demonstrate the great community that is Llanwrtyd Wells.
I look forward to the World Alternative Games that begin on the 17th August with what I am sure will be a unique take on the Opening Ceremony. It is an excellent opportunity for all to get involved, although I think I might pass on the bog snorkelling...!
Chair of the World Alternative Games Committee
I would like to extend a very warm Welsh welcome to all participants and visiting spectators at the World Alternative Games, staged in Britain’s smallest town, Llanwrtyd Wells.
The World Alternative Games is one of many compelling events across Wales this summer supported by the Welsh Government.
The Games, which take place over two weeks (in the gap between the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games) comprise of a diverse range of fun, quirky outdoor activities incorporating well established favourites such as the World Bog Snorkelling Championships and the Man versus Horse Marathon.
I am delighted that communities in Mid Wales are playing host to an event that aims to attract thousands of visitors to the area and the impact of this perfect antidote to other more conventional and pressurised competitive environments will, without doubt, resonate far and wide...
I would like to extend my best wishes to the organisers, the participants and to each and every visitor for what promises to be a spectacular festival of fun.
Our events and those of our partner event organisers are sponsored by The Welsh Government, Tourism Partnership Mid Wales, Powys County Council, Keep Wales Tidy, Wales Air Ambulance, Nakd, Cotswold Outdoor Clothing, Tayto Group Ltd, Glasu, JDRF, Muc-Off, Continental Tyres, Velocite Bikes, High 5, Trail 42, Heart of Wales Railway, Whole Earth Foods, and Running Imp. We thank all of our sponsors very much, because without you, our events would be very difficult to put on and ultimately achieve the success that we do.
Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.