2015 Redneck Olympic Games in Georgia

By David Sharp

There were no world-class athletes or top-notch sporting venues, but there was cold beer, barbecue and a muddy tug-of-war Saturday at the event formerly known as the Redneck Olympics.

The event, now officially known as the “Redneck (Blank)” after the real Olympics threatened to sue, also featured bobbing for pig’s feet, a greased watermelon haul and toilet seat horseshoes.

If that’s not redneck enough, then there was a wife-hauling contest and free mud runs for big-tired trucks.

Organizer Harold Brooks said it’s all about regular folks having fun without airs of pretentiousness.

“For me, a redneck doesn’t mean a person who’s dumb or lazy. A redneck to me means someone who can laugh at themselves. They’re a hard-working group of people who can let loose and have a good time,” he said.

On Saturday, a cacophony of loud music and roaring engines were set against a dusty backdrop in the hills of western Maine where several thousand people gathered. People paraded around in every manner of vehicle: pickups, all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, go-karts — and even a snowmobile.

Many spectators watching the trucks churning across the mud course ended up covered in mud themselves.

“It’s a big, dirty party,” said Sara Miller, of Manchester, New Hampshire.

Crowds were encouraged to get into the act during the “competition,” but actual athletic skills were not a requirement. For example, one of the events called the “beer trot” featured an obstacle course that participants traversed while carrying a beer in each hand. The goal was to finish quickly — without spilling.

There were faux gold, silver and bronze medals for winners. But these aren’t Olympic events. The U.S. Olympic Committee put the kibosh on the “Redneck Olympics” name in 2011, Brooks said.

That doesn’t mean rednecks went down without a fight.

On Saturday, T-shirts were emblazoned with “Redneck Olympics” — with “Olympics” crossed out.

Brooks said his event is more fun and affordable than the real Olympic Games, which he believes has grown too big for its britches.

“The average redneck couldn’t afford to go the Olympics,” he said.

http://bigstory.ap.org/6607744eed884e5ca23a76b638ceaa3a

Zoo animals roam free in Georgia’s capital after flooding

Tigers, lions, a hippopotamus and other animals escaped from the zoo in Georgia’s capital after heavy flooding destroyed their enclosures, prompting authorities to warn residents in Tbilisi to stay inside Sunday. At least 12 people have been killed in the disaster, including three zoo workers.

An escaped hippo was cornered in one of the city’s main squares and subdued with a tranquilizer gun, the zoo said. Some other animals also have been seized, but it remained unclear how many are on the loose. Bears and wolves are also among the animals that fled from their enclosures amid the flooding from heavy rains and high winds.

There were no immediate reports that any of the fatalities were due to animal attacks. The zoo said one of the dead was Guliko Chitadze, a zookeeper who lost an arm in an attack by a tiger last month; the Interfax news agency said her husband also died in the flooding.

As of mid-afternoon Sunday, it was unclear how many animals remained on the loose or what species they are.

“Not all the animals who ran away from the zoo have been captured. Therefore, I want to ask the populace to refrain from moving about the city without” an urgent need to, mayor David Narmania said.

A full accounting of what animals were missing wasn’t immediately possible because a large part of the zoo remained underwater, zoo spokeswoman Khaati Batsilaishvili told The Associated Press.

Heavy rains and wind hit Tbilisi during the night, turning a normally small stream that runs through the hilly city into a surging river. The flooding also damaged dozens of houses.

Narmania told journalists that 12 people were known to have died.

Helicopters circled the city and volunteers and rescue workers labored to help those whose residences were damaged or destroyed, despite the potential danger from the escaped animals. About 1.1 million people live in the former Soviet republic’s capital.

The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as telling a Sunday Mass that Georgia’s former Communist rulers could be seen as involved in the disaster.

“When Communists came to us in this country, they ordered that all crosses and bells of the churches be melted down and the money used to build the zoo,” he said. “The sin will not go without punishment. I am very sorry that Georgians fell so that a zoo was built at the expense of destroyed churches.”

http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:ee2ba68a486d45558fccd24a653ac6b6