Travel Olympics

21 May

If you’ve traveled often enough, no doubt you’ve come home from more than one trip wanting to do an Olympic-style dismount through the front door. With summer travel in full swing and all the hub-bub surrounding the 2012 Olympics in London, which starts July 27, we got to thinking what a Travel Olympics might look like. Can you think of an event to add to this list?

400-Meter Gate Dash

Dubai airport

Inside the Dubai airport

This event is a timed sprint through Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3 (the largest terminal building in the world) with a rolling suitcase, a boarding pass, and a screaming three-year-old. This year, for the first time, there will be a separate event that will award technique points for tweeting about being late for your flight; additional points if the athlete includes, from memory, the airline’s Twitter name in context, and/or a clever hashtag.

Airport Security Hurdles

Athletes must navigate through a series of hurdles without being selected for additional screening. Hurdles include no prohibited items; no excess liquids; emptying all pockets, removing all jewelry and taking laptop out of bag before arriving at the screening area; removing shoes and accessories; passing through detector only once. In response to athlete feedback, the judges will allow athletes to jockey for position between the line with the chaotic family of six and the line with the senior citizen tour group.

Luggage Weightlifting


Don’t forget your luggage cart

Athletes must lift luggage of the following travelers, in ascending order of heaviness: executive on a business trip; weekender; backpacker on a summer European trip; mountain climber on way to Mt. Kilimanjaro; female college student on Spring Break. (Fun fact! The only individual ever to lift the heaviest luggage successfully was a bellboy from Daytona, FL in 1982.)

Arrivals Pentathlon

Athletes will be timed on the successful completion of the following five tasks: clear customs and immigration; collect luggage; obtain local currency; make way to hotel using only public transportation; find the nearest bar. This has historically been the toughest competition in the Travel Olympics; most notably, in 1994 an athlete who’d had too much to drink before the event mistakenly grabbed the wrong luggage and had to return to the beginning of the course.

Synchronized Sleeping

Timed acclimation to new time zone using the athlete’s own unique combination of scheduled naps, coffee, and prescription medication. This is the only event in the history of competitive sport in which doping is actively encouraged, but iPhone apps are prohibited.

Fend-Off Fencing

Solo female travelers will be graded on technique in fending off advances from drunk local men, including verbal parry, insistence, disengagement and second-intention. Past gold medal winners have been able to disarm their opponent within 30 seconds; although time is not a part of the official competition, expect Vegas to take over/under odds on this year’s favorites.

Hostel Obstacle Course

My bunk

For the end of the day, bed. Photo credit: Benjamin Ragheb via Flickr

A cut-throat event wherein athletes must maneuver themselves and their backpacks through pot smokers, philosophy majors, trustafarians, drunk frat boys, and people breaking up with their significant others over Skype to reach their goal: a taco-shaped bed.

Sharp Photo Shooting

Athletes will be graded on photo technique in the following categories: famous monuments; doors and windows; elderly local resident that inhabits every destination stereotype; food; winsome sunlight with bokeh. The Travel Olympic Committee has recently stepped up their testing Athletes for use of Instagram, which was prohibited in this sport proactively by judges who don’t want to see another version of the Photoshop Scandal of 2004.

Packing Relay


Grab what you need. Photo credit: Aaron Sarauer via Flickr

Athletes work in pairs to collect, organize, and pack all necessary items into two pieces of carry-on luggage. Fans of this event enjoy debating rolling vs. folding techniques, while judges watch closely for forced suitcase closures and last-minute outfit discards. This year we can expect all eyes to be on Japan, which has introduced exclusively hard-shell equipment in bright colors.

Language Long-Jump

Athletes must get from Point A to Point B using only instructions given to them by locals placed in their path. Since this event takes place on-site in each host city, many expect this year’s average scores to be high after predictably disastrous results in Beijing; however, the U.S. is still slated to come in dead last after the team captain was overheard telling his trainer that Londoners should “just learn to speak American.”

Table Tennis

Street Food

Meat on a stick

Athletes must identify food served to them by sketchy street vendors and dodgy food trucks. (Fun fact! This event requires just over half the amount of water needed to fill the pool in the Aquatics Center.) Extra doctors will be brought in for the 12 hours following this event to handle any physical distress experienced by the Athletes.

Transportation Triathlon

Athletes must successfully navigate a course traveling first by camel, then by tuk-tuk, and finally by hailing a taxi on a rainy Friday during rush hour in Manhattan. This event puts the “sport” in “transport.”

Travel Olympics


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