As a row over Tokyo’s Olympic stadium threatens to overshadow the city’s Games preparations, the ‘Lube Olympics’ is looking to offer a slippery alternative for daredevil athletes in 2020.
Now in its third year, the oddball event sees contestants in crash helmets and lathered in lubricated jelly on a slimy floor battle it out in sports such as sumo, tug of war and human curling — with largely chaotic results.
“In Spain you have the tomato fighting and in Thailand there’s the water throwing festival: we wanted to come up with something unique,” Lotion Sports Association commissioner Iku Koshikizawa told AFP on Saturday.
“We took the typical Japanese sports festival, threw in some medical gel and bingo!”
He added: “The aim is to hold the Slimy Olympics at the same time as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and invite the world. Everyone covered in jelly and sliding about — it’s a fantastic way to [make] new friends.”
Last month no fewer than 26 sports, from sumo to surfing, applied for inclusion in the Tokyo Games before being whittled down to eight by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Baseball and softball, along with bowling, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, surfing and the martial art of wushu, also made the IOC shortlist.
“We slip about in medical lotion but there’s nothing naughty about it,” said contestant Kentaro Otani, a 30-year-old office worker in a skimpy costume of rope trusses and a baby’s nappy.
“It’s good, clean fun. I took part last year and finished last so I’m back to win the title of ‘top lotionist’ and be number one.”
Otani avoided finishing last again, barely.
“When you compete on lotion it’s got nothing to do with your physical ability,” he said. “It’s a totally barrier-free event — that’s what makes it so great.”
The competition, which attracted over 200 squealing athletes and opened with the Japanese national anthem and a good stretch, deserves to be taken seriously, according to Yuri Nakagawa, who was celebrating her 26th birthday.
“I’ve come to get my birthday lotion on,” she said, gel dripping from a cat black-and-white catsuit. “I heard last year the human caterpillar and tug of war were awesome, so I had to try it. It should really be part of the Olympics.”
One mysterious competitor in a lucha libre-style Mexican wrestling mask helpfully cut to the chase.
“Simply put, serious adults doing incredibly silly things is great fun,” said bare-chested 33-year-old, who went by the name ‘The Mexican’. “Excitement is the spice of life.”