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Tug of War: The Ultimate Team Sport

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I can’t remember where I played tug of war, but I remember being on a number of different tug of war teams throughout my childhood. It was always the main event — the ultimate determining factor of who was the real champion of the day.

In fact, tug of war has been played for thousands of years, since 500BC, all over the world. As such, it is one of the oldest team activities ever played. In ancient Greece, teams of 3 men played without a rope. They would hold each other by the waist and try to pull the other team over a line marked on the ground. Tug of war was an Olympic sport until 1920, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reduced the number of activities in the competition and it was dropped. It’s a shame, really. Nothing would top off the Olympic games better than a tug of war competition.

Generally, the rules are pretty straightforward. There are 6-8 people per team. Each team holds one end of a 120 foot long rope which is marked in the center with a piece of tape or marker. When the referee yells “Pull!” the teams try to pull the other team 15 feet from the center point, so that the center tape in the middle of the rope passes over the 15 foot line on one side. When this happens, there is a lot of hooting and hollering and pumping of chests.

Victory in tug of war relies not on the strength of one player on a team, but the ability of the team to work together in a rhythm to maximize their effect on the other team.

The 2010 Tug of War World Championships will be held in South Africa in September, 2010.

The reigning World Games champion is the Netherlands in the mens 680kg division.

Kids love tug of war, but tug of war isn’t necessarily kids stuff.

Arm severing incident

On October 25, 1997, Yang Chiung-ming and Chen Ming-kuo each had their left arms severed below the shoulder during a massive Tug-of-War event in Taipei, Taiwan. During the event, the rope immediately snapped and the sheer rebounding force of the broken rope tore off the men’s arms. Reports of the incident had evolved into an urban legend incorrectly stating that the men had their arms wrapped around the rope; in fact, neither man had his arm wrapped around the rope, meaning that the rebounding force of the rope was solely responsible for the injuries.

Unsuitable rope

In the German town of Westernohe 650 young scouts participated in a tug of war in 1995. When the rope broke, only 30 sec. into the tug, two children were killed and 102 participants suffered injuries. The rope was judged to be unsuited for the use in the related court case.

Partially severed hands

Two Lutheran High School students in Parker, Colorado had their right hands partially severed in a pep rally tug of war between members of the senior and junior classes on October 12, 2007.

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