Olympic events aren’t just for Olympians.
Get your Games on at one of these 7 whitewater kayaking courses, set in a variety of unique locations, from cosmopolitan cities to French wine country.
Kayaking and canoeing have been official Olympic events since the 1936 Berlin Games, but the 1972 Munich Games introduced a whole new concept: A manmade whitewater slalom course with all the challenges of a roaring natural river. Prijon Kajakschule can school you on the finer points of navigating the granddaddy of all Olympic whitewater courses.
The cost of creating a thundering waterway proved too high for the next four Olympics, so the event didn’t return until the ’92 Barcelona Games. It reemerged in style with this watersports facility located adjacent to the historic city center in the Pyrenees Mountains town of La Seu d’Urgell, about two-and-a-half hours from Barcelona.
Ages 12 and up can crash through the rapids at this popular venue which was the site of the canoe/kayak slalom events during the 2000 Sydney Games. It’s located about an hour outside of Sydney at the foot of the Blue Mountains, the dramatic region that’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From whitewater kayaking to scuba instruction, this watersports facility – the site of competition during the 2012 London Games – offers plenty of family-friendly activities. There’s also live music and cocktails for the adults at the Terrace Bar & Café.
The Arena is set on the Donauinsel (Danube Island), in the heart of the city, where you can also find a number of outdoor activities, clubs, bars and restaurants. Opened in 2013, this facility is drained weekly and refilled with fresh water (in June 2016 a kayaker died from exposure to a deadly amoeba at a whitewater park in North Carolina).
Operated by Charles University (founded in 1348), you can experience flat or whitewater runs, as well as taking on a climbing wall or hitting the gym. You can also find accommodations here, plus a restaurant with plenty of Pilsner Urquell on hand.
Combine some wine tasting with some whitewater excitement (not at the same time, though) at this watersports park in the Loire department. Nearby is Pilat Regional Nature Park where you can hike and mountain bike, which is why the local tourism office boasts the region has its “feet in water; head in the clouds.”