Rednecks take on Olympics for 'glory'

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The Independent US

Ancient Greece may have launched the Olympics, and London may have given birth to Wimbledon, but that doesn't mean there isn't room in the world's sporting pantheon for the hot and sweaty little town of East Dublin, Georgia.

True, the athletic line-up at East Dublin's annual festival is a little unusual. Belly-flopping in a mud pit is not exactly a recognised Olympian pursuit, nor is watermelon seed-spitting. But such activities come naturally to a certain breed of sunburned white southerners - the kind who traditionally carry pitchforks and wear denim overalls and smile great big toothless smiles

The name of the event says it all: the Redneck Games. The annual shindig began as a bit of a joke, a spoof response to the 1996 Olympics held up the road in Atlanta, but has grown into a veritable phenomenon. Yesterday, the games celebrated their 10th anniversary, attracting a crowd that organisers expected to top the 15,000 mark - not bad in a town of just over 2,000 - and offered the usual packed programme of events and competition. As the official slogan says, it was all "more fun than cow-tippin'!"

Spectators relished such sights as the hubcap hurl, which has been described a redneck version of the discus, redneck horseshoes (played with toilet seats), bobbing for pigs' feet, a buttcrack beauty contest, and something called the armpit serenade, in which contestants attempt to crank out a tune solely with the use of their underarms and a single dampened hand.

The festivities were inaugurated with a torch parade - the torch being proudly fuelled by propane. Instead of cups or medals, winners receive trophies adorned with crushed beer cans.

Like all the best sporting events, the games have had their moments of triumph and anguish. A few years ago, the armpit serenade was won by a 12-year-old who produced a recognisable recognition of "Dixie". For four years in a row, the bobbing for pigs' feet contest was won by a contestant in his sixties called Melvin Davis - who explained to an adoring press corps how he sank his teeth into the hoof, not the actual flesh, and flipped the feet out of the water at lightning speed. But Mr Davis, who should not perhaps have given away the secrets of his success, lost the contest last year and was back yesterday trying to regain his honour.

Once, in 1998, the whole event threatened to be rained out. But then a handful of crowd members who did not mind getting wet began a spontaneous game of American football, using a full beer keg as a ball. It kept them entertained all day.

The games were launched by a local country station, WQZY, which decided that rural Georgia was being left out of the 1996 Olympics and should really make its presence felt. "It started as a joke, and of course it still is a joke," said Jeff Kidd, the station's programming director and founder of the Games. "But we have a lot of fun, and all the money we make goes to charity."

Mr Kidd is altogether too well spoken to qualify as a redneck himself. ("I do have all my teeth, which I guess puts me at a disadvantage," he said.) But many of the contestants are proud to carry the label. Mr Davis, for example, drives a Chevy pickup, has a dog called Bubba and loves to eat fried rabbit.