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10 Strange Sports That Used To Be In The Olympics
Aug 25, 2016

10 Strange Sports That Used To Be In The Olympics


A look back at earlier editions of the Olympic Games shows that very strange sports were once on the menu. 

Unfortunately for us, the Olympic Committee worked hard to eliminate any source of amusement and awkwardness, leaving us with the game format and choice of sports we all know and get bored seeing every four years.

1. Tug-of-War

via Imgur

The Tug-of-War might sound like the kind of game you played during summer camp, but it managed to be present at the Olympic Games from 1900 to 1920. 

Eight men were pulling the rope on each side, and victory was awarded to those able to drag the other team six feet from the starting position.

The United Kingdom was particularly successful at this past Olympic event, and British athletes won two golds and one silver medal.

Tug-of-War is notorious for producing funny slips and for making men’s hands look suspicious. Do you regret missing the chance to see this on your flat Ultra HD TV?

Create a petition to your National Olympic Committee, and chances are you will be the force behind the biggest comeback in sports history.

2. Club Swinging

Club Swinging
via R Maxim International

The 1904 St. Louis edition of the Olympic Games was a bit controversial, but not because club swinging was among the sports.

The wooden club is the modern version of the club our ancestors used to settle cave feuds. At this point, you are probably eager to know the rules of games. Contrary to a popular myth (most likely influenced by circus acts), the clubs were not thrown in the air but swung in a way that would impress the judges.

A small version of the sport survived in rhythmic gymnastics, although the clubs are much smaller and lighter, fitted for the small bodies of prepubescent gymnasts.

3. Pigeon Shooting

Pigeon Shooting
via Sport Shlok

Tokyo 2020 has all the chances of bringing something creepy on the table. Japan is notorious for its strange obsession with marine creatures, and we might see some live targets again in the shooting sports.

Paris 1900 was the last and only time when living marks were added to the shooting competition to make it more realistic. While competitors typically shot flying plastic disk, Paris organizers thought this was an excellent opportunity to get rid of some of the “flying rats.”

Of course, this was not the only time when pigeons were killed at the Olympic Games. Lighting the torch in Seoul 1988 roasted hundreds of birds that were released earlier in the ceremony.

4. Pankration

via FightCampTravel

Pankration is one of the oldest sports in history, and it was the highlight of the Ancient version of the Olympic games. 

The unusual competition was introduced in 648 BC, and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is the closest thing we now have today.

Pankration was great because few rules limited the moves of the competitor. Basically, except for biting and gouging out the opponent’s eyes, everything else was allowed.

The fighters used techniques from boxing, wrestling, and any other sport that involved physical violence. Just to make things even better for the audience, athletes were competing naked and covered in olive oil.

The modern revival of the Olympic Games rejected the Pankration because of its violent nature.

5. Horse Long Jump

Horse Long Jump
via Business Insider

Back in the days, horses were good at almost anything imaginable. You could consider them the equivalent of modern-day cars.

Horse Long Jump might sound dangerous, and it really was. There were not few the occasion in which the rider or the animal ended up with a serious injury.

The lame fact about Horse Long Jump is that the OR (Olympic Record) set by men on horses is weaker than the one scored by humans competing alone.

6. Solo Synchronized Swimming

Solo Synchronized Swimming
via Reuters

Believe it or not, the guys that get to decide what sports are fitted for the Olympic games included Solo Synchronized Swimming.

It happened at Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1986, and Barcelona 1992, before a wise guy finally put a knife through it, and showed everyone else that stupid sports are gradually ruining the entire competition.

From our point of view, the name of the game itself contains a grammatical aberration. As we watched a couple of swimmers perform, we also agree it is silly. The goal is to be in sync with the music that is playing, making the performance incredibly hard to judge.

The current version of the sport involves an entire team of swimmers, and people get to synchronize with someone else.

7. Obstacle Course Swimming

Obstacle Course Swimming
via The Richest

You probably know the crazy Japanese obstacle course game shows where people fall on wet logs. Something similar was once on the Olympic agenda.

Called the 200m Obstacle Race – Swimming, it was a combination of actions more suited for a sailor than a swimmer. Climbing over a pole, scrambling over a row of boats, and then swimming under another row of boats certainly looked odd for people used with more straightforward events.

You will be disappointed to know that the Summer Olympics held in Paris 1900 was the only time such an event was featured. No funny video for you!

8. Tandem Cycling

Tandem Biking
via Leicester Secular

Tandem Cycling is one Olympic event that was discontinued. 

Its glory days span between the 1908 and the 1972 editions. The image we included has nothing to do with the Olympic event, as only two riders were allowed. That was actually an attempt to establish a world record for most riders on the same bike, although we are pretty sure the record did not survive in our crazy times.

It is important to know that tandem cycling has a series of particularities that makes it unique. It is a well-known fact that tandem cyclist can ride a bike much faster than solo.

Tactics are also important, as teammates take turns to rest or sprint.

9. Dueling Pistols

Dueling Pistols
via Getty Images

Firing lethal weapons sounds more like a Hollywood movie depicting the Wild West than an Olympic sport. 

However, pistol dueling actually managed to make an appearance in 1906. If you are confused about the year, we will tell you that this was an unofficial edition of the Olympic Games called the Intercalated Games. It helps to know that all the medals won in 1906 are not recognized by International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Pistol dueling might disappoint you because men were not shooting at each other. Instead, plaster dummies dressed to fool the eye were being used.

As a random fact, a poll that tried to establish which are the most popular sports people want to see back on the Olympic circuit found out that pistol dueling tops the list.

We can only hope IOC will learn to listen to the public and bring back a bit of that antebellum thirst for violence.

10. Rope Climb

Rope Climb
via Muscle and Brawn

You will be surprised to know that rope climb was an Olympic event in the first editions. 

We do not know what went wrong at the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Olympics for the practice to be discontinued.

The goal of the sport is to reach the top of the rope first. However, in some editions, the style of climbing was also considered.

One memorable moment of rope climbing as an Olympic sport happened in St. Louis 1904 because U.S. gymnast George Eyser won gold despite having the disadvantage of a wooden leg.

Rope Climb remained only as a type of military training, and there is no chance to see a comeback in the Olympic family. Other more prestigious sports are waiting in line.


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