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10 Incredibly Dangerous Competitions From Around the World
When you look at ancient competitions like jousting or Aztec Death Soccer, sports today are relatively tame by comparison. Stringent safety rules ensure that injuries – at least life-threatening ones – are kept to a minimum; players are heavily padded down to their toes; and spectators are fenced off far from anything moving faster than a nacho vendor. Even “combat” sports like MMA rarely result in anything more serious than some scratches and a nosebleed.
But the people in the competitions below took those safety precautions and politely escorted them straight into the land of Somewhere Else, because they understand that if there’s one dish humans will come back for, it’s heaping amounts of violence with a side of potential death. These entries aren’t just some stunts that one guy did – they’re actual competitions, mostly annual, which people continue to participate in despite the insane amount of danger involved.
This annual downhill bike race involves a madcap full-speed descent through the streets of Valparaiso, Chile. Riders must navigate tight turns, 15 foot drops, flights of stairs, and all the inherent dangers that come from putting a race track right in the middle of a populated city (most injuries are caused by stray dogs wandering across the course).
The race, which started in 2003, is held in the form of time trials rather than head-to-head competition, and since the course runs through some major city streets it’s not actually set up until a day or two before the event, giving the riders no time to practice before it begins. According to one rider, “…we are basically going into the jumps blind since they probably won’t even test them until [the day of the race].”
The Basant festival, traditionally held annually in early February, is a Sufi tradition in northwestern Pakistan and the world’s largest kite festival. If that sounds like an afternoon of whimsical fun – it really, really isn’t. The kite strings are usually coated with powdered glass or strands of razor wire, and people compete to cut the strings of other kites.
The problem is that it’s not only string they’re cutting – low flying kites are responsible for so many deaths each year that the Pakistani government has repeatedly tried to enforce a ban on the festival. In 2009 alone eleven people were killed. Bikers face the greatest danger, although the metal kite strings also commonly slice through power lines, electrocuting the kite holder.
MMA is probably one of the most injury-filled “normal” sports around. Tasers – an entirely separate danger – deliver a 3,000,000 volt shock that causes you to temporarily lose neuromuscular control. Putting these two things together makes about as much sense as a power saw limbo – but that’s exactly what Michael Alexander did when he created shockfighting.
The sport pits two fighters against each other in a boxing ring, with the slight variant that each fighters’ gloves contain a high voltage stun gun. In other words, they’re punching each other with tasers. The video above can do a much better job at describing it than we can, but we’ll just say that according to the official site (which no longer exists, sadly), shockfighting is “banned in all 50 states and the rest of the civilized world.”
Every year, hundreds of people travel to Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester, England, to watch grown men throw themselves down a hill after a giant wheel of cheese. That’s it; that’s the entire competition. The idea is to catch the cheese before it reaches the bottom of the hill, but it’s nearly impossible since the cheese rolls at up to 70mph. The hill itself is too steep to run down, so the end result is a few dozen people sliding, rolling, and tumbling all the way to the bottom.
White water kayaking can in general be pretty dangerous – but when you send a group of kayakers down a Class V river that is notorious for killing even experienced boaters, well, then you have a spectator sport. The Green River Narrows is referred to as a “steep creek” section of the Green River near Asheville, NC. Over a distance of about half a mile the river drops about 250 feet in elevation, providing plenty of rapids along the way, including the famous “Gorilla,” an 18 foot waterfall immediately followed by another 10 foot fall that is responsible for most of the deaths in the race.
This competition is still unofficial, which means that among other things, there are no safety precautions and no medical crews to help injured riders.
There’s no possible way to describe this event that conveys more meaning than the phrase “baby jumping,” because that’s exactly what it is. It occurs every year in Castrillo de Murcia, a small village in Spain. Newborn babies – 5 or 6 in a group – are lined up on mattresses in the middle of the street while men dressed as devils jump over them.
Saunas aren’t typically associated with danger, but the World Sauna Championships prove that relaxation can be just as deadly as kite flying (which, taken out of context, still sounds pretty damn silly). First introduced in 1999, the World Sauna Championship takes place in Heinola, Finland, and involves sitting in a sauna in tremendous heat, with the winner being the last person who can walk unassisted out of the room. The temperature starts at 230 fahrenheit, and participants often suffer third degree burns and dehydration.
The Louisiana State Penitentiary, often referred to as Angola, is no stranger to brutality. This 5,000 inmate capacity prison sprawls across 18,000 acres and is historically the home to some of the most violent prison acts in the United States. In 1964, the management tried to put a positive spin on the penitentiary by organizing an inmate rodeo. The idea caught hold, and the Angola Prison Rodeo is now the oldest prison rodeo in the country.
The highlight of the show is Convict Poker: Four inmates are placed around a poker table in the center of the arena. The last person sitting at the table is the winner. And, oh yeah, there’s an enraged bull attacking them the entire time. Other notable events include bull riding (performed by inexperienced inmates), Guts & Glory (in which inmates try to grab a poker chip off a raging bull), and Wild Cow Milking (you can probably figure that one out).
Alligator wrestling is arguably the manliest activity ever invented, but its popularity has gone down the drain ever since phrases like “animal cruelty” and “probably kind of dangerous” became a thing. That’s not stopping James Holt, though, who took it upon himself to organize the first official Freestyle Alligator Wrestling Competition in 2010.
Participants jump into a pool of water and go head to head with a wild alligator for 10 minutes, with the goal being to wrestle the gator out of the water. Bonus points are available for any stunts the participant wants to perform with the (again, wild) alligator.
Chances are you’ve seen at least one video of wingsuit jumping by now. Wingsuits are modified jumpsuits with a span of fabric between the legs and behind the arms, allowing the wearer to glide for tremendous distances, something that isn’t possible with typical base jumping. In 2008, Paul Fortun took this extreme sport and turned it into a biannual race. Twice a year, the World BASE Race sees participants leap head first off a 1,300 meter (4265 ft) high platform in a head to head battle to see who can reach the ground first.
It’s an incredible event to watch, and so far there have been no injuries at the race. Instead of a trophy, the winner is awarded the title “World’s Fastest Flying Human Being.”