Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter
Examining some of the strangest sports of the games
The 2012 Summer Olympics are just around the corner. Millions of viewers around the world will be glued to their TV sets watching popular events such as basketball, gymnastics and swimming. But there are some sports, historically and today, that have us wondering one thing—WHY?!
Here is a look at some of the weirdest actual events in the history of the modern Olympics.
Live Pigeon Shooting
The 1900 Paris Olympics has the distinction of being the only Olympics where athletes killed animals for sport. Belgium’s Leon Lunden took home the gold with 21 downed birds, with a total of 300 birds being killed during the competition.
Remember playing Tug-of-War in elementary school during gym class? In the early days of the modern Olympics, this event was a mainstay of the games, with the Tug-of-War being held at every Olympiad as a track-and-field event between the years 1900 and 1920. The sports’ greatest scandal came in 1908 when the City of London Police Club purportedly wore illegal footwear that was so heavy the men had trouble moving their feet.
The champions were as follows: 1900, a combination Swedish/Danish team; 1904: the Milwaukee Athletic Club, representing Team USA; 1906: Germany/Switzerland; 1908: The London Police Club, representing Great Britain; 1912: Sweden; and 1920: Great Britain.
Racewalking (20km and 50km)
It seems ridiculous that racewalking continues to be an Olympic sport while more popular sports like baseball and cricket continue to be snubbed by the Olympic Committee. For the uninformed, Racewalking differs from running in that competitors must maintain contact with the ground at all times with at least one foot. While the event is very technically difficult (competitors are continually judged for proper form and docked if caught using illegal technique), there is nothing exciting about watching a bunch of people walking at a brisk pace. Finally, it doesn’t help that the athletes look like constipated penguins when competing. See for yourself.
Olympic Committee members, if you’re reading this, please vote to eliminate Rhythmic Gymnastics for 2016. While there’s no denying the technical difficulty and beauty of the competitors’ performances, this activity has no place in today’s Olympic Games. The sport is simply painful to watch and is guaranteed to put viewers at home into a deep coma. Proponents argue that the sport combines elements of modern dance, ballet and artistic gymnastics but that does not prevent the uninitiated viewers from seeing a bunch of girls dancing around with a ribbon and hula-hoop.
One of the more unusual events in the history of the modern Olympic movement, Rope Climbing was part of the gymnastics programs in 1896, 1904, 1906, 1924 and 1932. Starting in a seated position, competitors raced to the top of a roughly 8-meter rope and were judged on both their time and style. In the 1986 Olympics,
The sport is enjoying a resurgence in France and the Czech Republic, giving hope for those who wish to see this event return to the Olympic Games.
It is hard to believe that dueling pistols was an actual Olympic event, but it was part of the 1906 Athens Olympics. Despite the name of the event, competitors were forced to fire at mannequins with bulls eyes affixed to their chests. Evidently, the lack of bloodshed made this shooting event unpopular, as it was not renewed in future Olympics.
Solo Synchronized Swimming
Solo Synchronized Swimming was an official Olympic sport between 1984 and 1992. What’s most shocking about this is that it took the IOC three Olympics to realize that the sport is an oxymoron since a person swimming alone cannot be synchronized with someone else. In reality, competitors were judged for their synchronization with the music. Quite frankly, we’re OK if this event never returns from the abyss of retired Olympic sports.
—By Eric Chalifour
See more 2012 Olympics coverage.