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International King of Sports

If we wanted to find the best all-round athelete, what would we do? The decathalon? That's fine for track and field which are the most basic of events but there's more to sport than running, jumping and throwing isn't there? The heptathon? That's just the decathalon but seven tenths as good. The modern pentathalon? Well, shooting, swimming, fencing, show jumping and running are all quite interesting and diverse disciplines but you can't get through it all in 24 minutes. And no, we can't count Superstars for one reason or another.

What we need is someone to make up a load of sports and trials to test all round physical ability. That was Dermot O Leary's Born to Win. International King of Sports is a whole lot sillier and much more fun.

Each week, four competitors battle it out in Cheltenham over five rounds aiming to reach the final and earn the accolade International King of Sports in front of an estimated audience of 500 billion people. They are joined by hosts Helen Chamberlain (off of Soccer AM on SKY which is quite good), Mark Robson (International King of Sports of 1988) whilst Alan Parry commentates.

Each event is introduced with a comedy Norwegian/Dutch/Icelandic/Pakistani voiceover (we can't work out which and it's comedy because of his chocie of words). A no means complete list of events follow:

  • 10G Downhill Run - Run down a hill as fast as you can running between ten sets of flags.
  • 200m Under Hurdles - It's a 200m race but instead of going over the hurdles, right, they've got to crawl under them.
  • Association Bobbage - Competitors wear flippers and jump into a swimming pool from progressively higher heights aiming to keep their head above the water at all times.
  • Tennis Thwack - Using a standard tennis raquet and ball, hit the ball as hard as you can so it stays in the air for the longest time.
  • Short track sprint - It's the 100m, but on a circular 10m course.
  • Individual Fall Down - Four people line up, when they hear the gun they've got to fall over and slam their chin on the mat as fast as possible. Last person in each round is eliminated. A fabulous game of reactions, courage and gravity.
  • Underwater Shot Putt - Go on, guess.
  • International Skids - Take a run up to a slippy slidey surface and then skid along it as far as you can making sure you keep both feet on the mat at all times otherwise your skid IS COUNTERFEIT.
  • 3 Metre Sprint - Yes.
  • Pool Hang - Hang from a bar over the swimming pool. Contestants are paired off at random, the winner of each duel goes to the 3/4 point final, the losers play off for 1/2 points.
  • Speed Gun Run - Run as fast as you can into an upright crash mat. Towards the end of the track before the mat is a speed gun, the winner is whoever can record the fastest speed.
  • Headlong Dive - It's the long jump except their feet aren't allowed to hit the sand first. Measurement taken from the tippermost of the outstretched hand.

And there are more. First place in each event scores four points, second three and so on.

As you may have noticed many of these sports are traditional sports turned upside down or given a big twist. This gives them at least a sense of sporting substance and in testing speed, strength and reactions they aren't quite as silly as you'd possibly think. This is both the shows strength and weakness. Events like the 10G Slalom, Tennis Thwack and particularly Individual Fall Down and International Skids are interesting, entertaining and fun to watch. Many of the other events feel a bit lazily contrived by comparison (usually the traditional event + a special condition events).

Happily this is all wrapped up in just about the right kind and level of irony. Cheltenham is a funny name and place to hold sports of this calibre. Mick Robson isn't really International King of Sports 1988. It's not really being watched by 500 billion people and whilst the events are unusual and the interviews and reactions are given in implied seriousness the hosts tones to camera imply a concealed smile (although the illusion is broken slightly in series two when Chamberlain introduces the show each week with "what happens when you get 24 of the world's top athletes together and ask them to compete in sports we've completely made up?").

In summary then, we think television is a slightly better place for this show's existance but, entertaining as it currently stands, needs a bit more work before it can 'be' truly great.

- Winner of Most Slightly Overrated New Show in the 2002 OFFICIAL Bother's Bar Awards.