The magazine said the Games "...will satisfy novelty starved fans, those bored by boardercross and street luge, with such events as running in formation, slalom running, synchronized cycling, the assisted high jump and mechanised running, in which wheels and sails are banned but springs aren't."
On mechanised running, Sports Illustrated said: "With a wink at the Olympics, the Fringe Games bill mechanised running as a race 'between mechanically assisted athletes as opposed to chemically assisted ones'."
Any spectator who is feeling jaded at the same old events spinning round on the sporting calendar should keep an eye on a strange jamboree to be staged in New Zealand a week before the Olympic Games in Sydney next year.
It is not often that you can be in at the birth of new sports, or witness new events at existing sports meetings. Just occasionally, after some ferocious or eccentric lobbying, beach volleyball, synchronised swimming or ballroom dancing will creep into a games. But such "recreations" already exist and are merely seeking acceptance within the establishment of mainstream sport.
By contrast, in New Zealand, a remarkable man with the unlikely name of Burton Silver is toying with a completely new concept of "innovative sports and games" that will have most traditionalists spluttering with outrage. He wants to introduce the world to the delights of formation running, assisted high jumping and hurdling on bicycles. Silver's dream is to hold a regular international sporting festival, staged around the time of conventional world sporting events, to be known as the Fringe Games. His inaugural games, which he says will be televised, will take place in the QEII Park in Christchurch, from September 8-11, 2000.
"These are not silly games, they will be highly competitive," Silver said. "There is a hunger for new and exciting events. People are going to be able to watch formation running, the 100 metres slalom and mechanized running for the first time, plus a host of other sports that have never been seen before."
Lateral - or sideways - running, synchronized running with the teams harnessed together by tough elastic cords, high jumps where a partner helps to heave you over the bar, long jumps in which hand-held weights are used to extend distance, a gymnastic 100 metres sprint involving a series of cartwheels and hand-springs, backwards running, and a freestyle ball throw are some of the bizarre events planned by Silver.
"Many people don't realise that athletes are constrained by traditional rules," he said. "There are ways of jumping higher or cycling faster. The Fringe Games will allow us to celebrate our true potential by removing such constraints and we confidently expect to see many records set at these games."
Cycling events will be unrestricted by rules covering the construction of bikes, and innovations such as the outlawed streamlined bike built by the Graeme Obree, the Scottish rider, will be welcomed.
A 400 metres hurdles race, in which cyclists will have to jump ten hurdles of varying height, promises plenty of action. Other events include a unicycle 100 metres and synchronised cycling.
Silver said that the Fringe Games are based on the belief that the creation of the new in sport is as important as the celebration of the old - that experimenting with sport challenges human ingenuity and reinvigorates the spirit.
"There is great value in celebrating tradition, and long may it continue. But that shouldn't stop us from creating new traditions or changing existing ones." Coincidentally, Silver believes that there are unlikely to be any problems with drugs in his games. "Our events will encourage a greater concentration on technique, rather than the current obsession with the development of physique."
You will probably be able to get a bet on whether the man is simply mad or a great sporting visionary, and whether his games will ever take off. It is now well over a century since we saw his like. Then a self-confident generation of Victorian gentlemen knocked into shape the sports we have enjoyed ever since. Their raw material was largely games with long pedigrees that began in ancient times. They were modernisers and codifiers of sport rather than inventors.
But there is no logical reason why great sports should not grow from an idea, an inventive spark or an experiment. No one, for instance, would today dismiss basketball as a fringe sport. But when it first appeared it would have been readily recognised by Silver as fit for inclusion in his Fringe Games.
Basketball was the result of an assignment posed by a physical education teacher in December 1891 at a YMCA training college in Springfield, Massachusetts. A Canadian student, James Naismith, rose to the challenge of devising an active indoor winter game that would prove attractive to young men. He typed up a rudimentary set of rules, had a janitor nail up peach baskets along the railing at each end of the gym, and invited his fellow students to toss a ball into the baskets. The invented fringe sport caught on immediately.
An even crazier idea for an event, considered at the time to be outrageously beyond the bounds of normal sporting activity, has since become one of the most popular mass-participation sports in the world.
In June 1894 Michel Breal, a classical philologist, wrote to his friend and fellow Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, suggesting a new race for his 1896 Athens Olympics. Breal, trying to establish a connection to the ancient Greek games, proposed an impossibly long endurance run of 40 kilometres or more, even though there was no such footrace in ancient Greece.
It was, of course, the marathon - surely an event that even Burton Silver would consider to be way beyond the fringe.
To be called the Fringe Games, it aims to move beyond traditional sport in an exploration of human potential.
"There is a hunger for new and exciting events," says Fringe Games creator and international best selling author, Burton Silver. "People are going to be able to watch formation running, the 100m slalom and mechanized running for the first time, plus a host of other dynamic sports that have never been staged on an athletic track before."
Other events include the freestyle long jump, the freestyle high jump and open design cycling events. "Many people don't realize that athletes are constrained by traditional rules of limitation and that there are ways of jumping higher or further, or cycling faster. The Fringe Games will allow us to celebrate our true potential by removing those constraints and we confidently expect to see many new records set at these inaugural games," says Fringe Games spokesperson Burton Silver.
Experienced New Zealand event organizer, Arthur Klap, who has been enlisted to help put the first games together, says that the Fringe Games will stretch orthodox perceptions of how sports events can be run.
"This will be one of the most exciting games imaginable," says Klap. "The open approach will allow athletes to reach new levels of skill and performance which have not been possible in international competition until now."
The Fringe Games are likely to be staged around the time of major international sporting events in order to highlight other possibilities in sport, just as fringe arts festivals highlight alternative movements in the arts. Future Fringe Games will be held in countries which are "fringe" to countries holding major sporting fixtures.
International and local interest in the games has been instant.
"The concept has already been run past international broadcast consultants and potential sponsors and we have been delighted with the interest in it," says Silver.
"What is of particular interest is how people we have been speaking with overseas have all said how appropriate it is for the Fringe Games concept to be coming from New Zealand. We seem to be well known for innovation and invention. Sir Edmund Hillary's name inevitably comes up, as well as bungy jumping, zorbing and jet boat racing. Several have mentioned New Zealand's leading international yacht designers, and, of course, the All Blacks."
The first Fringe Games will be held at QEII Park in Christchurch between the 8th and 11th of September 2000. This is a week before the Olympic Games, although the organizers point out that there is no association between the two events.
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Copyright © 1999 Fringe Games Promotions Ltd
Updated 29 January 1999
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