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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

India’s Rural Olympics - in pictures

Popularly known as India’s Rural Olympics, the Kila Raipur Sports Festival offers sports that might liven up proceedings at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year.

Take, for instance, bullock racing, lifting bicycles with your teeth, and being deliberately run over by a large piece of agricultural machinery.

First held in 1933, the rural games are held at the end of January and attract tens of thousands of spectators. They constitute a major highlight of the Punjab cultural calendar.

About 4,000 competitors take part, braving the wheels of tractors or pulling them by the hair as a test of strength. Less strenuous but equally contested is turban tying.

Age is no barrier: the youngest participants are not yet in their teens; the oldest, octogenarians. The animal kingdom is also represented, with events for dogs, camels and cattle.

In an age of corporate sponsorship and doping scandals, here is a sporting festival that arguably comes closer to the spirit of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who revived the modern Olympic Games in 1896. To paraphrase his words, it is not so much the winning as the taking part.

* James Langton / All photos by Subhash Sharma for The National