As we have seen during its past four incarnations, the Chap Olympiad is something of a paradox: a surreal collision of histories which makes you feel more alive yet more nostalgic at the same time. Celebrating impeccable manners, sartorial excellence and a general lack of sporting ability, this year's event drew a crowd of 1,500 chaps and chapesses to Bedford square, all of whom were dressed in splendid attire that reflected some of the finer points of the last 150 years. (In fact, the only scruffy plebs amongst them were journalists and photographers, plus ça change..) Indeed, attendees would have had little excuse to be anything other than well-dressed, thanks to the excellent advice offered in the Chap magazine, the monthly publication that is responsible for these annual anarcho-dandyist antics.
As usual, the Olympiad was officially started by the lighting of the Olympic Pipe, a magnificently extensive protuberance which, once lit, is passed around in a sputum-based celebration of tobacco and sportsmanship. Following this came a diverting programme of events on the elevated stage - a new addition to proceedings which was welcomed for its ability to display the chappish shenanigans to even the most diminutive of spectators. Our favourite event was the umbrella jousting - a contest wherein two combatants endeavour to unseat each other from bicycles with the aid of sturdy umbrellas - which provoked displays of showmanship, cunning and outright cheating which we fear will be sadly lacking during the 2012 Olympics. Although some Olympiad veterans remarked that the games had lost the lustre of previous years, we did notice that, for newcomers, they held a definite fascination.
For those not enthralled by the chap-falling and general tomfoolery there was an amply stocked bar and barbecue to keep the spirits up. The barbecue, we must admit, was woefully incapable of dealing with the numbers it purported to cater for (some waited over an hour in the queue) and we couldn't help wondering what had happened to the other refreshments and entertainments promised in their pre-event press releases. One new addition to the programme which did make an appearance was a comedic interlude provided by Mr Paul Foot, who, despite bravely attempting to rival the attractions of the bar, was no match for the spontaneous dancing which sprang up shortly after his departure. The DJ, or 'shellac-spinner' if you will, did an excellent job and the crowd could clearly not get enough of dancing to his period tunes.
At the end of the day, as we walked out of the square and back into be-denimed reality, would could not help but glance back at the bright young things dancing to the catchy beat and sigh at the transitory nature of what had been such a glorious day. As with every Olympiad, we had undoubtedly witnessed a few problems, but we once again left the event knowing that we couldn't wait to go back next year.
For more great photos of the day check out these, which were kindly placed in the Londonist flickr pool by Belkus.