MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’re just two days away from WCCO’s Pulling Together.

The teams are set, and Hidden Falls Regional Park will be the place to be as Minneapolis squares off against St. Paul in a tug-of-war over the Mississippi River.

Of course, there are rules to follow. And some of them date back thousands of years.

So where did tug of war begin? Good Question. WCCO’s John Lauritsen went back through history to find the answer.

Maybe it was to settle a bet, or fifth grade gym class or just to see who was stronger. But chances are at one point in your life, you found yourself on one end of a tug-of-war rope.

In fact, from 1900 to 1920, tug of war was an Olympic sport. The U.S. won a gold medal in 1904.

“My hands are still torn up from last weekend. Blisters as you can see,” said Mike Martin.

(credit: CBS)

Martin is with DJ’s Tug of War Club. He’s not just a competitor, he’s also a historian.

“The Vikings did it back in Iceland and Scandinavia, and they did it as a preparation for battle. A lot of it was preparation for battle or to settle disputes,” said Martin.

Just like today, back then there were teams of eight pulling against each other. But while the Vikings invented many things, tug of war wasn’t one of them.

“It began in B.C. There is evidence of it back in Egypt,” said Martin.

China and India also have a history that dates back almost as far. But the first empirical evidence of tug of war is actually found on the walls of Angkor Vat in Cambodia.

“I was there a few years ago and saw it for myself. There is a relief there carved in stone with two teams pulling on the rope. This is 9th century AD,” said Martin.

Centuries later, it’s still a sport with plenty of pull around the world. One that requires strength, endurance and a good back.

John Lauritsen


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