The Favourite Games Of Leonard Cohen – Part 2


In commemoration of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, today’s post continues the three-part, non-exhaustive, idiosyncratic look at the athletic feats of Leonard Cohen begun yesterday in Part 1 of The Favourite Games Of Leonard CohenUpdate: Also available now are The Favourite Games Of Leonard Cohen, Part 3 and More Leonard Cohen Favourite Games – Unified Heart Touring Company Teammates

International Equestrian Events


Photo contributed by Dominique BOILE

French Cross Country Horse Race & Dressage

Sylvie Simmons, preeminent Rock Chick, noted novelist, respected pop music journalist, and Leonard Cohen biographer, was gracious enough to supply the following synopsis of this event:

There were two dates left on the [1970] European tour, both of them festivals, the first in the South of France, the second in the UK – the infamous Isle of Wight. The French one was held in the Provence countryside outside Aix and the band stayed at a country hotel. The place had stables and the band had the afternoon to themselves, so everyone went riding. Which is how, when they found the road was blocked by parked cars later that day, Bob Johnston thought of the horses. And Leonard thought of the wine. And the good Lord blessed and guided them to an unlikely Wild West bar in the middle of nowhere.

The whole band took the horses up the ramp and onstage.1 It’s the kind of decision that a large intake of wine mixed with the bravado Cohen’s European tour had engendered and the leadership style of Bob Johnston is going to produce.

Hydra Hill Climb

As can be verified by the photo at this site, Leonard Cohen – the Greece years, Mr Cohen also participated in the Coed Hydra Hill Climb –  Sidesaddle Style, Donkey Division.

Thumb Wrestling

From left to right: Roscoe Beck, Bill Ginn, Paul Ostermayer, Leonard Cohen

The Ringscape Of Your Lethal Thumb2

In the “This Beggar’s Description” documentary (see Phil Tetrault & Leonard Cohen – Friends And Poets, From “This Beggar’s Description”), Leonard Cohen demonstrates the concept and ritual of thumb wrestling to fellow poet Phil Tetrault on a park bench in Montreal. In the dialogue, Cohen also boasts of besting Pierre Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, in thumb wrestling.

thumb2xAnother Documented Leonard Cohen Thumb Wrestling Victory

From ‘Don’t Pass Me By,” Sings Cohen, But The World Passes Him By by Mike Collins – Leeds University Union News: June 26, 1970:  (“He” in the first line refers to Leonard Cohen)


The Motivation – What Drives Leonard Cohen’s Thumb To Thumb War?

In a 1969 interview,3 Cohen explained his interest in thumb wrestling:

It’s a way to establish physical contact, holding somebody’s hand for a while.

Shrewd fellow.


baseball-autoLeonard recalls his summer camp activities:

What did you like to do in the vacation camp?

I thought I liked everything, everything… But I was particularly interested by friendships, conversations, and later on, by girls. I accepted our daily activities as a given to which there was no reason to resist. Undoubtedly I was bored by this or that activity, to have to sit down to eat etc…but I accepted it, there was no alternative. Inside that framework I found things that interested me. I definitely loved baseball and all water sports.4

Gymnastics – Floor Exercises

eb-lcEmily Bindiger, backup singer for Leonard Cohen, reported

 He [Cohen]  stood on his head to get motorists’ attention when our tour bus broke down in Europe.

Gymnastics – On Apparatus

Leonard Cohen and Alberto Manzano (Cohen biographer) in Barcelona 1989 (photo by Lourdes Barbal. Contributed by Dominique BOILE.)

Note: Originally posted Aug 8, 2012 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. DrHGuy note: Some sources report that only Cohen’s horse actually made it onstage. []
  2. “The Ringscape Of Your Lethal Thumb” is from “Foreign God, reigning in earthly glory,” published in Parasites of Heaven by Leonard Cohen []
  3. Songs Sacred and Profane by Ira Mothner. Look: June 10, 1969. []
  4. Leonard Cohen, quoted in Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Throat Culture magazine, 1992). Emphasis mine []

5 Replies to “The Favourite Games Of Leonard Cohen – Part 2”

  1. Sylvie Simmons

    Let’s not forget swimming, clothed and otherwise, and hockey – one of the photos he lent me for the book* is of the Pee Wee hockey team he played for, complete with cup. [*book being I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, now out September 18th, or so I’m told]

  2. Sylvie Simmons

    How could I have doubted you, even for a moment? But did you know that, as long ago as 1948, at Camp Wabi-kon Leonard was awarded the Canadian Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety Certificate? By all accounts a little more challenging than the Food Safety Certificate he earned at the monastery five decades later. Glad to help out on a Certificates of Leonard Cohen piece, once these darn publishers have loosened the chains. x