Top 10 Weirdest Olympic Sports Of All Time
Tokyo 2020 – now 2021 – kicks off this month with five new sports added to the mix. This year you’ll see surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing and karate introduced, along with the return of baseball after its last appearance in 2008’s Bejiing Olympics.
With the new sports making the cut, it got us thinking about the other ones that got the boot.
How many weird Olympic sports throughout the years didn’t make it to today’s line-up?
Below are some of the most amusing, ridiculous or bizarre activities people have won medals for…
1. Rope Climbing
Rope climbing was actually part of the gymnastics programming at the Olympics in 1896, 1906, 1924 and 1932.
Originally competitors were judged on speed and style but by the later years medals were awarded for those who made it to the top first – the only rule being no legs allowed.
2. Live Pigeon Shooting
The first of two trigger-happy events on this list and one of many that only stuck around for one year at the 1900 Paris Games.
Instead of clay pigeon shooting, that year the organizers opted for real pigeons to “compete” with.
Live birds were held and released into the air for competitors to shoot, with over 300 birds reportedly killed during the event.
3. Race Walking
This isn’t a casual stroll, with race walking having all the rules and less of the fun of walking.
Competitors must keep contact with the ground at all times, keeping the leading leg straight when the foot makes contact with the ground until the leg passes under the body.
Here’s a video explaining how it works:
A precision sport that pushes bodies to the extreme.
Traditional Olympics sometimes sound like giant international picnic, especially when you consider that Tug-of-War used to be a popular event.
It appeared for the first time at the Paris Olympic Games in 1900 and was featured on the events list until 1920.
Eight-man teams – often made up with competitors from different countries – had to pull their opponents six feet to win, or make the most progress within five minutes.
The British team was made up of mostly police officers and was actually one of the strongest, winning two gold medals and one silver while the event was around.
5. Swimming Obstacle Course
In 1900, the Paris Olympics also included a swimming obstacle race.
Just like a normal swimming race, except this one had three obstacles including pole climbing and boats to climb onto and swim under.
The event was held in a river, so in modern times competitors would probably be using trash and sewage as their obstacles.
6. Dueling Pistols
No, this wasn’t a duel you’re familiar with from the movies.
During the unofficial 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens, competitors actually shot at plaster dummies from about 20 or 30 meters away.
This was probably for the best, after hearing what happened to the poor pigeons.
7. Hot Air Ballooning
Technically a demonstration event and not an official sport, hot air ballooning was part of the 1900 Olympic Games.
Competitors were judged and earned points on elements like distance, duration and elevation.
The Olympics may need to click their heels three times or hope for a return to Oz if this sport ever makes a comeback.
8. Horse Long Jump
In – you guessed it – the 1900 Paris Games, the horse long jump featured as an event.
Even though the winning leap from Belgium’s Constant van Langendonck who was riding the Extra Dry was an impressive 6.10 meters, it didn’t have a patch on the humans taking the same leap of faith.
It failed to impress and was axed from the events list afterwards, as was the horse high jump too…
The horses have some serious competition if this event is to make a comeback:
9. Solo Synchronized Swimming
The name itself is contradictory. Who are you synchronizing with if you’re swimming alone?
Well, event supporters claim the synchronization is with the music.
It was an official event in 1984, 1988 and 1992, until the organizers folded it into a team event and never looked back.
10. Town Planning
At the four Olympic games between 1928 and 1948, medals were given out for, erm, town planning.
It fell under the architectural design category of the arts portion of the Olympics.
The even stranger part is that a silver medal winning plan for the Marine Park in Brooklyn wasn’t even used, as the city’s parks department used a different plan instead.
Considering the urbanization of modern times, this event could definitely use a comeback!