Strange Olympic Sports

In the final countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games, I thought I might write a couple of blog posts on the subject. This is the first.

The list of Olympic events varies a little from one Games to the next, but the list is pretty stable. In earlier Games, there were some rather odd events.

Obstacle Race
The 1900 Olympics was held in Paris and it was a strange affair, as the sporting events were mixed in with the other events at the International Exhibition. Some of the sporting events on the program were hot air ballooning, fishing and motor car racing. There was also a swimming obstacle race where competitors had to clamber over a pole and swim under a row of boats.

Tug of War
London is about to host its 3rd Olympic Games. The first was held in 1908. One of the events was the Tug of War. The host nation fielded three teams, all made up of policemen. The Brits beat the Swedes and the Americans, but the Americans protested, claiming that the policemen were wearing illegal footwear. They were in fact wearing their regulation police-issue boots. The protest was not upheld. The policemen offered to do a rematch barefoot, but the US team declined. The finals were between the three teams of Bobbies. Tug of War was an Olympic event from 1900–1920.

Ready, aim …
A duelling pistol event was held in Stockholm in 1912. The competitors did not shoot at each other, though. They aimed at fully clothed mannequins. The Running Deer ¬†was quite a long-running shooting event lasting from 1908–1956. Fortunately, no live animals were used, just a deer-shaped target. That was not the case in the Pigeon Shoot held in 1900. At this event live pigeons were used…and live ammunition. The resulting blood and feathers was not a pretty sight and the event was never repeated.

The Madison
This more modern Olympic event has been held from 2000–2008. It sounds like competitors require a dance partner rather than a bicycle. It involves teams of two cyclists with only one on the circuit at a time. As far I can tell, there are no rules for when one cyclist takes over the other. Just whenever they feel like it. The men’s Madison has been discontinued and the Omnium will take its place…whatever that is.

The Games: the extraordinary history of the Modern Olympics. For more about the history of the Olympics.


2 responses to “Strange Olympic Sports

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