Tug of War

This sport represents a concept so classic that in many languages its name is used in everyday language. Tug of war's long history as the purest contest of human strength provides glorious moments. In the Olympics from Paris 1900 through Antwerp 1920, in The World Games from 1981, and in Tug of War International Federation World Championships held outdoors and indoors ... When the referee commands “Pick up the rope!” – “Take the strain!” – “Pull!”, adrenalin pushes eight athletes on each side to muster every ounce of strength in their bodies.

Tug of War featured in The World Games 2013; check the event calendar for all details.

Tug of War will participate at The World Games 2017!

Learn more about Tug of War on The World Games Channel.



The technique and the equipment ...

The teams of eight members are captained by the lead person, the first in line, and the anchor, the last man or woman who may wrap the rope around his or her body once.The key is for the rope to be pulled in a straight line from the lead to the anchor. The team pulling the centre of the rope four metres from the starting position is declared the winner. The rope is between 33,5 and 36 metres in length, 10 to 12,5 cm in diameter, and it is made of hemp.

The highlight of outdoor tug of war is the clash of sheer power between the two teams. Athletes seek an optimal foothold in the ground by digging in their heels and, using that as their pivot, pull the rope with all the strength they are capable of mustering.

For obvious reasons, this technique doesn't work for the indoor event. Leaning too far back would cause the athletes to slip, even on the specially designed rubber mats. Hence they try to steadily move back, step by step, in order to avoid loss of pulling power. Indoor matches require much more clomplex techniques and tactics than those in the outdoor tug of war.

From B.C. to today ...

Tug of war as a competitive match of strength between two teams was practiced as early as 500 B.C. by Greek athletes. It was also considered an ideal physical training and a perfect workout as basis for many other sports.

Today, while still being a sport of almost unequalled simplicity in terms of its object, tug of war competitions are governed by fair and sensible rules authored by TWIF. The "pulling" in men's and women's divisions is classified based on the total body weight of the eight athletes on each of the two opposing teams, ensuring that they are evenly matched in that respect.

Traditional sporting spirit ...

During The World Games 1989 Karlsruhe German sports philosopher Prof. Dr. Hans Lenk had observed the tug of war competition. In an article with the news magazine DER SPIEGEL he later reflected upon an incident he had witnessed then.

"With heavy boots, bulging biceps, and with looks of determination on everyone's face, both teams lined up. Particularly stout the Swiss, somewhat lankier the Brits. All of a sudden there was a delay! The Swiss were one athlete short. The poor lad had injured himself during training. The two teams and the referee conferred for a moment. Voluntarily, the Brits dropped one athlete from their team ... The spirit of fairness continued alive where not only the victor's purse and the must-win-at-all-cost attitudes count ... Below the excessively marketed top-level sport with all its temptations to unfairness – doping, etc. – the traditional sporting spirit still exists."

20 years later, in The World Games 2009 Kaohsiung, the Swiss dropped one member from their team in the final against Germans. They, too, had one man down with a back injury.

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