I ran into this bike polo website the other day and was intrigued with the idea of the sport even though I had no idea what it was. I ended up watching this video of some woman getting their bike polo on and after doing a quick browse of the web I thought that it was worth 400 words and 30 minutes of my time to explain it all to you. Pay attention, I don’t have a lot of time here.
The History of Bike Polo
The original bike polo was invented in Ireland in 1891 by a retired cyclist named Richard J. Mecredy. The sport was first played on grass just like the traditional polo game, but instead of horses they used bikes. In 1908 bike polo was a demonstration sport in the London Olympics, which saw Ireland beating Germany for the gold medal. Nice work, Irishmen!
The man, Richard J. Mecredy. (photo credit)
The winners of the 1908 Olympic demonstration. (photo credit)
During the 1930s France and Great Britain were known for having some pretty hardcore bike polo matches and they used to have several international championships. Sadly World War II completely wiped the sport out of Great Britain, but France kept the sport alive and still has league championships on a regular basis.
In the 1980s bike polo became really popular in both India and the United States, which lead to the first world championships in 1996. They were held in the US, but the gold medal went to India. Man, those guys were good.
The Arrival of Hardcourt Bike Polo
An updated, grass-free version of the sport called hardcourt bike polo started in Seattle in the early 2000s and started spreading across the United States like something that spreads really, really fast. Regional US tournaments have been going on since 2004 and the first European and North American hardcourt bike polo championships were both held in 2009 and the winners qualified for the world championship, which was help in Philadelphia. A team from Seattle named Team Smile won the world title with a Canadian and New York team coming in second and third place, respectively.
Since then the sport continues to grow more and more and is popping up in cities everywhere. If you need evidence of this growth I just saw that there was a Midwest championship last month in Indiana (which is where I’m from), so yeah — it’s now officially everywhere.
If you’re wanting to dig into some more bike polo goodness, check these links out:
- An awesome timeline of bike polo
- A couple of guys playing bike polo in the early 1940s
- New York Times article written about hardcourt bike polo in 2007
- The original hardcourt bike polo blog