My story about World Sport for All Games – part III

integracja międzykulturowa na igrzyskach sportow tradycyjnych - Litwa, 2012

In the previous parts of this story I have described, among others:

  • interesting parts and attractions of the World Sport for All Games in Lithuania (2012),
  • many traditional sports3 from Poland and over 10 from the other countries. You can read it HERE and HERE. 

Below, the third – and the last part of my story – including, among others:

  • the peculiar way of using long poles for sport in the Netherlands,
  •   the importance of such sporting events,
  • the reasons why we should practice and promote traditional sports.

Dutch pole vault or fierljeppen – one of the best attractions  of the World Sport for All Games

During the last days of this interesting and special sport event in Siauliai, one of the most striking sports attractions were the demonstrations of Dutch, traditional sportfierljeppen.

As you know, the Netherlands is a flat country, lying in some places below the sea level. In the past, it used to have many wetlands. People – farmers, shepherds, soldiers and the others – had to move in such conditions. They were using to this end a special type of long stilts or poles to jump over smaller streams, brooks and even rivers, from their one bank to the other.

Over time, thanks to the development of drying and drainage techniques, these poles were no longer needed. They have remained in use, but have been transferred to the world of sport what is typical for many traditional sports and games.

Water jumping competitions has begun to be held at the local festivals in the Netherlands, creating, over time, a sport – now called fierljeppen. Even the Netherlands Championships are played in this discipline.

This is, therefore, an evolution typical for many traditional games and sports. In the past, these activities were used for work or everyday life and later they have passed into the world of sports, games and fun.

In Lithuania, during a special show, Dutch champions from different age categories were demonstrating how to make a correct jump – its phases:

  • preparation and run-up,
  • a jump on the pole,
  • proper climbing on the pole so that you tilt it forward with your own body weight and finally
  • landing on the sand on the other side of the river.

Then, everyone could try it! At first, most of the participants were landing in water. Over time, however, some of them managed to successully jump to the other side.

The consecutive contestants were announced by their name and nationality, and after their trial, the speaker was telling whether they had broken their country’s record in the jump length.

The atmosphere during this show was amazing. A simple activity, transformed into a traditional sport, has shown once again how different people can enjoy their time together, thanks to the activities in which participation and joy, derived from taking part in traditional sport, were more important than the competition itself.

fierljeppen - przygotowanie do skoku
Fierljeppen – preparing for the jump
fierljeppen - skok
Fierljeppen – the jump
fierljeppen - lądowanie
Fierljeppen – landing


An important event during the World Sport for All Games was also the international UNESCO forum entitled The role of sport and culture in the development of society. Delegates from around the world were talking about traditional sports in their countries, their importance and perspectives for the future.

One of the most interesting examples of the entire model of education and development with the use of traditional sports and games was the Sports Academy in Gerlev, Denmark. I visited it in 2012.

I am writing much more about it in my book – currently being reviewed.

The Closing Ceremony

This amazing event of traditional sports in Siauliai, Lithuania ended with an impressive Closing Ceremony in the city’s main Arena. At the beginning, all the participants were sitting at 700 (!) tables and were watching a show by Lithuanian artists about the history of the city of Siauliai.

Later, the President of the Association for International Sport for All (TAFISA), Dr. Kang-Too Lee and the President of the city of Siauliai, Justinas Sartauskas, gave their speeches and officially closed the Games.

ceremonia zamknięcia igrzysk sportów tradycyjnych
Closing Ceremony

And then, people from all over the world were just having fun together, dancing, singing and integrating – united by traditional sports.

The meaning of such events and traditional sports

You can ask again at this point: OK – traditional games and interesting, sports event – but so what? What does it matter?…

I have already written about it above, so below, in a few points, I will only mention some of the most important benefits from organizing such events and from traditional sports in general:

everyone interested can take part in them. It distinguishes this event from, for example, the Olympic Games or the world championships in a given sport. Only the best can take an active part in them. In Lithuania, everyone could play any game.

Would you like have a try in a pole vault across the river? Fierljeppen is waiting for you.

Do you want to play a dynamic game with a net and a ball? Polish Ringnetball would be perfect.

Do you prefer a more calm, precision, throwing game? Spanish la rana is for you.

Or maybe you want to play a racket sport with the ball, using a peculiar kind of tambourine for that? Try Italian tamburello.

There were much more such examples. Everyone could find something for him or herself. The menu was long and the dishes really delicious.

podczas gry w jukuskei na igrzyskach sportow tradycyjnych na Litwie
Me playing South African Jukuskei

traditional games are a joy and celebration of cultural diversity. Our current world REALLY needs it.

Why – I am asking  – people have always been divided throughout the whole history of the world? For what reason?

Isn’t it better to be happy and enjoy the differences between people? After all, it DOES make the world more interesting and colourful!

There were no divisions at the World Sport for All Games. People were just playing and spending great time together. And what is important – they were learning a lot from each othermutual respect, joy and satisfactionit is the world of traditional sports.

I know what I am talking about. Whether we like it or not, our world is multicultural. How important it is to UNITE people and NOT to divide them, I think I don’t need to explain more.

Traditional sports give it to all of us. They CONNECT and UNITE people from all over the world, contributing to building a reality where different people can live side by side and enjoy their diversity. Thanks to this, the fear of being different is reduced. Common events, activities, cultural and sports passions are needed to bring communities and individuals together.

Traditional sports are one of the driving forces, changing the world for the better. REALLY.

z delegacja japonska na polu do pierscieniowki
Intercultural integration at the World Sport for All Games

traditional sports and games are also a kind of a remedy to the threats of globalization. We live in a globalised world. It has many benefits but also bear many risks. We all know it. One of these risks is that local cultures, customs and habits, including sports, are threatened by the global forces that have brought us mass culture, in which many interesting and original, cultural elements are endangered of disappearing or have already gone.

Thanks to the diversity of traditional sports, games and plays, local culture and differences, so appreciated by many people who travel more and more often over the world and are curious about the differences in the “worlds” they visit, can be experienced, appreciated and strengthen.

These local cultures are precious and thanks to, among others, traditional games and their events, can be alive!

Moreover, in the world of such sports, we experience a positive dimension of collective identity –  it is NOT a cause of divisions, but a willingness to present one’s own culture and experience many others.

Come on – I am going to show you my sports and you can show me yours.  Let’s play, have fun, enjoy it and be together – this is the message of traditional sports events.

igrzyska sportow tradycyjnych okazja do poznania ludzi z innych kultur
African delegations presented many interesting things in Lithuania 

Such events GENUINELY FIT into the reality of our world. Thanks to them, cultural diversity, contained in sport, is a source of joy and curiosity.

Here, everyone can feel the atmosphere of fun, friendship and integration instead of hostility and divisions!

Being surprised, sometimes astonished, and enjoying the diversity of the world of sport and culture thanks to the common, active participation in traditional sports and games – it is all about that and it really matters A LOT.

Bartosz Prabucki

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