By Tyler Phillips
The thrill of cheese consumption. The agony of rolling perpetually down a 60 degree incline. The failure to secure your dairy prize. Although the human drama of athletic competition in cheese-rolling may strike some as bizarre, the tradition of the event in the community of Gloucouster, England cannot be understated.
As for the event, the proceedings are simple. A single nine—pound round of Double Gloucouster cheese is set loose rolling down the sharp incline of Cooper’s Hill. Immediately after, numerous daring competitors chase the wheel down the hill with the hopes of winning the race and beating the cheese. The motivation for the game is simple; the winner takes the queso.
While this task may seem simple enough, it is made more difficult by the fact that the cheese has been known to reach speeds of 70 km/h on its descent. In fact, due to the cheese proving capable of sustaining injury merely upon impact, the 2013 competition opted to swap out the round for a foam replacement. Still, this has not cut out the dangers of the event. Before every race, the event keeps a medical crew on standby, grossing anywhere from 7-20 tumbling injuries on any given year. Still, the allure and longevity of the cheese-roll is undeniable.
Although specific dates and the exact origins of the event are uncertain, it is said to have been originated sometime in the 15th century, with the first documented case appearing in 1826. During this time, the cheese-roll was a local gathering and communal celebration for the small population of Cooper’s Hill.
Even today, the people of Cooper’s only number at 26, but that did not prevent the game from growing. Throughout the years, the dairy themed event has secured a status of world-fame. Every spring, hundreds of competitors and spectators flock to the hill from across the world to take part in the games. In 2013 alone, two out of four of the victors of the events came from America and Japan, asserting very firmly that the sport is no longer a localized oddity.
Love it or hate it, understand it or not, it is safe to observe that the historical art of cheese rolling will not be going anywhere any time soon.