South America’s Most Popular Non-Olympic Sports
Following the disappointment of the World Cup for many of South America’s football elite, the party in Rio now looks towards preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games. For those considering travelling to South America, The Ultimate Travel Company have taken an alternative look at some of the continent’s most popular sports yet to make the cut in an Olympic capacity. Why not pencil in your must-see sports to your travel itinerary.
Although officially recognised as an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1936, Polo has yet to re-establish itself amongst the Olympic contingent. Polo still remains one of the most popular sports to be played across Argentina. On realisation of the ideal climate and abundance of flat land, British railway engineers originally introduced the sport in the later part of the 19th century, gradually working its way across the country in tandem with the growing rail network.
Today Argentina’s Polo is amongst the best in the world, with the majority of the world’s top-ranked players originating here. In fact no Polo event draws in more followers than the Polo Open Argentine Tournament (considered the World Championship of the Polo world). For the majority of western countries, polo is largely considered a luxurious sport, played on well-kept and polished lawns. However across Argentina the sport is played wherever possible on virtually any type of terrain in one form or another. in Argentina, polo is actually more popular than traditional horse racing! In fact for travellers wanting more than just the spectating experience, there are a host of stables more than happy to introduce people of any skill level to the sport!
The Chilean Rodeo
Following the trend, horse riding in Chile is one absolute must for any South American travel itinerary. A trek through the Death Valley may sound like the most daring option, but the nation’s truly loved sport, rodeo, is an even greater test of skill for horse and rider. Chilean Rodeo in fact became so popular that in 2014 it overtook football based on spectator attendance.
Rodeos are often classed as a time for celebration amongst communities across the country, with whole villages turning out to show support for their riders. Achieving the title of Rodeo Champion is in fact seen as an incredible honour in the Chilean community, comparable to the fame and status gained by footballers and basketball players from England and the United States respectively.
While Cuba and Mexico are considered to be pioneers in bringing baseball to the masses, their stance is nothing compared to the presence of Major League Baseball in Venezuela. Venezuela is in fact one of the greatest exporters of high calibre baseball players, responsible for the second highest number of foreign-born players across the Major Leagues.
Often subject to debate, baseball’s origins in Venezuela are thought to originate from a group of Venezuelan students returning home from the University of Florida in 1985 and subsequently bringing the game back with them. Regardless to the origins Venezuelans soon became captivated by the sport and had quickly formed their own league. Today Venezuela is home to a winter league that houses both major and minor stars from American Major League Baseball, as well as an abundance of academies for minor league player development.
One of South America’s more ‘off the wall’ sports is Columbia’s traditional and national sport of Tejo. Tejo combines an eclectic mix of features including skill, accuracy, explosives (yes explosives!) and is more often than not played with a beer in hand. The premise of the game is to throw a metal disc (the Tejo) towards a pit of clay pivoted on a 45 degree angle. Contestants are aiming to hit the target on the centre of the board for maximum points, or failing that one of the small targets holding gunpowder placed around the board for one point.
There is a host of speculation around where Tejo originated from, however one of the more widely believed theories is that the sport was inherited in a basic form from the Musica Indians, with gunpowder being added later for dramatic effect! Regardless of its origins Tejo (although taken very seriously) is often a great social event and a game in which multiple generations can compete!
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