Weird games to have made it to the Olympics

Every Olympics, the tussle for various disciplines of sport means few drop out to make way for some more. It is a tough balancing job for the IOC such that a few weird ones have slipped through. Here they are, courtesy The National newspaper from Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Live pigeon shooting (1900)
The only time animals were killed at the Games on purpose. A flock of birds was released in front of a participant, who had to kill as many as possible. Two misses meant elimination. It turned out to be, quite literally, a bloody mess and the event was dropped.

Duelling pistols (1906)
No, contestants in Athens weren’t pitted against each other, but it was almost as interesting: a shooter aimed for a mannequin that was dressed in an overcoat with a bullseye on its chest. The sport ranks just below the live bird shooting event on the morbid scale.

Croquet (1900)
The only admirable part about this game’s one showing at the Olympiad was that it had some of the first women take part – three, in fact, competing alongside men. It was won by the French, mainly due to the fact that nine of the 10 competitors were from France.

Tug of War (1900-1920)
This event was part of the ancient Olympics of Greece, so at least that explains its inclusion at the modern Games. Two teams of eight lined up against each other; the first to pull the other six feet won. Clubs were allowed to enter, so it was not uncommon for one country to win multiple medals in a single year.

Motorboat (1908)
The first time the Games came to London, they brought a new sport: motorboat racing, which kind of takes the athleticism out of the equation. Today the sport wouldn’t be possible, as the Olympic Charter specifically forbids any event where mechanical propulsion is involved.

Tandem cycling (1906, 1908, 1920-1972)
This sport enjoyed a relatively long time as an Olympic event, and no wonder: the speeds developed by two pedal-pushing riders were much higher than singles bikes, adding to the excitement. But by 1972, the Olympics was bloated with games and many were cut, along with tandem cycling.

Solo synchronised swimming (1992)
Forget the fact that one swimmer has no one to synchronise with (the music, apparently). But the event had a controversial ending when the US swimmer’s gold medal was argued because a judge admitted to punching in a wrong score. The gold was then also awarded to the Canadian competitor a year later; there was no silver awarded.

Softball (1996-2008)
A women’s only sport, it was dominated by the US team, especially in 2004, when they went 9-0 with eight shutouts, outscoring their opponents 51-1. It could be the most dominant show ever of any team in any sport in the Olympics. But they couldn’t duplicate the feat at the Beijing Games, the sport’s last appearance.

Rink hockey (1992, demonstration)
While it was only a demonstration sport in Barcelona, rink hockey (more like field hockey played on roller skates) just never really caught on enough to make it to “real-sport” status beyond 1992.

Rope climb (1896, 1904, 1906, 1924, 1932)
Part of the gymnastics programme, this was one of the tougher sports. Men had to climb with their arms only – no legs helping – a length of rope between 7.62m and 14m, depending on the year, and it was judged on both speed and style, whatever that would mean.

The plunge (1904)
A diving event with a twist; actually, a plain twist. There are no style points awarded here, just a measurable fact of who could get as deep as possible. Competitors jumped in and held themselves as flat as possible to streamline themselves through the water.

Swimming obstacle race (1900)
How do you liven up the swimming events? Throw in some boats and poles competitors have to traverse around, over and under, and add the current of the River Seine just for some added danger. This 200m race lasted just one Olympics.

Basque pelota (1900, demonstration sport in 1924, 1968 and 1992)
Known as the fastest sport in the world; not because the players are fast, but the ball whips out of their large baskets they hold at up to 240kph, thrown against a wall and played like squash. After being dropped in 1900, the sport came back three times as a demonstration, all for naught.

One-handed weightlifting (1896)
This was similar to the modern snatch, except, of course, the competitor used just one arm. After three successful attempts, they had to switch hands and repeat with the opposite arm.

Water skiing (1972, demonstration)
Motorboats made a comeback at the Olympics, but they weren’t the stars; it was the people on skis being dragged behind that competed. Six events were held, including slalom, jump and figure skiing for both men and women.

2 thoughts on “Weird games to have made it to the Olympics

  1. World Cup or Olympics: which is bigger? « BETWEEN THE LINES

  2. The story behind Her Majesty’s jump at 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony « BETWEEN THE LINES

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