10 Weirdest Olympic Sports of All Time

10 Weirdest Olympic Sports of All Time

It’s official: breakdancing is now on the list of confirmed sports for the 2024 Olympics. I, for one, can’t wait.

It got us thinking about the other less conventional Olympic sports throughout the years. How many didn’t make it to today’s line-up, and which weird events still run?

Below are some of the most amusing, ridiculous or bizarre activities people have won medals for. Now to start the petitions to bring them back, or get them more attention!

1. Rope Climbing

Rope climbing at the 1896 Olympics. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
Rope climbing was part of the gymnastics programming at the Olympics in 1896, 1906, 1924, and 1932. Competitors needed to climb a suspended vertical rope using on their hands and arms. No legs allowed.

Makes you wonder if their coaches screamed at them from the ground to make it a full childhood gym class experience.

2. Race Walking

This isn’t a casual stroll, with race walking having all the rules and less of the fun of walking. The competitor 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.

No wonder these competitors look so silly!

3. Tug-of-War

Traditional Olympics sometimes sound like an international team-building picnic, especially when you consider that Tug-of-War used to be a popular event. Eight-man teams had to pull their opponents six feet to win, or make the most progress within five minutes.

The UK team was made up of mostly police officers and were the favorites, with two gold medals and one silver while the event was around.

4. Swimming Obstacle Course

In 1900, the French Summer Olympics 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, sewage and disease as their obstacles.

5. Tandem Bicycle Sprint

Back in the day when the Olympics were purely for amateurs, banning all paid, professional competitors, tandem bicycle sprints were thrilling to watch and intense for competitors.

Going at high speeds around the velodrome is scary enough on a single bike, just imagine the crash when you’re on a tandem bicycle! It sure would be fun – but very tense – to watch these again.

6. Underwater Swimming

This event wasn’t too popular due to the lack of spectator value, but maybe it should make a comeback now that underwater cameras are a thing.

Underwater swimming was held over a 60m distance with competitors awarded two points for every meter swum underwater and one point for each second under water.

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. Equestrian Dressage

Equestrian Dressage is way more involved then it looks. Essentially it involves horses learning to dance to the beat of different music, coordinating their specifically prescribed movements perfectly.

It can look quite silly, which is why it’s way more impressive when set to hip hop music. Stunning legs, gorgeous hair and a sense of rhythm make these horses the Beyonce of the Olympics.

9. Solo Synchronized Swimming

The name itself is contradictory. Who are you synchronizing with if you’re swimming alone? But event supporters claim the synchronization is with the music.

An official event in 1984, 1988 and 1992, the Olympics instead folded this into a team event and never looked back. Suppose the solo water dancing will have to be saved for another sport.

10. Town Planning

At the four Olympic games between 1928 and 1948, medals were given out for 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!

Olympic rings
Image: by InspiredImages on Pixabay