Olympians are tough. Whether it’s the Summer or Winter Olympics or the Paralympics, competitors have to train extensively before standing against the best athletes the world has to offer. Even the Special Olympics requires a strength of character which allows a person to stand up and compete despite a lifetime of adversity.
The WEIO, or World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, has a lot of tough participants too… but in this case, the fortitude they possess isn’t a trait which allows them to excel at a sport; their endurance is the sport.
The WEIO is held yearly in Fairbanks, Alaska in the middle of July. It runs for four days, and is a both a celebration of culture and a series of competitions with their roots in survival of cold arctic winters.
For example, there’s the Seal Hop. Participants go into “push-up” position with only their knuckles and toes touching the ground, and then hop forward while remaining in that position. That means someone is pushing their entire body forward using their knuckles, then landing on those same knuckles. The winner is typically not the person in the best physical condition, but rather the one who can endure the most pain..
Another event, the Ear Weight, tests the ability of a contestant to endure the pain of frostbite. Large weights are attached to both ears, and then the Olympian must walk forward as far as possible, with judges watching to verify the correct posture.
Then there’s the Ear Pull. This is a one-on-one event where a loop of sinew is wrapped around two peoples’ ears and they pull away from each other. It’s a tug-of-war using only the head and neck, with all of the pressure being applied to the back of one ear. There’s a double-elimination bracket which is used to determine the eventual winner and runners-up.
There are three lessons to be taken from these sports. First, people who live in the far north are not to be trifled with. Second, that a positive spirit can turn adversity into a friendly competition or even a celebration. Third, if a guy who bears a striking resemblance to an Inuit version of Lee Van Cleef challenges you to a competition involving pain, don’t take him up on it.
Question of the night: What’s a point of cultural heritage you celebrate?