If you think the modern Olympics have always featured the same, traditional events then you’re wrong. Here are five of the most unusual events to have ever graced the games.
Swimming Obstacle Race (Paris, 1900)
If you fancy competing in a spot of obstacle swimming you’re going to have to travel back in time to Paris 1900, as this is the only time the event was included. 12 competitors raced the 200 metre course that included three obstacles. The first was a pole which the swimmers had to climb over. They then had to clamber over a row of boats, before swimming under another line of vessels towards the end of the course. The gold medal was taken by Australia’s Frederick Lane, so perhaps they should have resurrected the event for the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Long Jump for Horses (Paris, 1900)
This one doesn’t really need an explanation does it? The winner was simply the horse that jumped the furthest, which incidentally wasn’t very far at all. The winning horse managed to leap just over 20 feet, which is more than 2.5 metres shorter than the current human world record.
Live Pigeon Shooting (Paris 1900)
How mental do the 1900 games sound? In an astonishing display of animal cruelty 300 birds were sacrificed as Leon de Lunden from Belgium fired his way to the gold medal (killing 21 pigeons by himself). The 1900 games in Paris have the dubious honour of hosting the only event in the history of the Olympic Games where animals were harmed with deliberate intent.
Solo Synchronised Swimming (1984-92)
This one’s a bit of an oxymoron isn’t it? I mean if it’s a solo event then who exactly do you synchronize your movements with?
Apparently the answer is that the swimmers performed a routine that was synchronized to music rather than with any other swimmers. In any case the event only survived for three Olympic Games (1984-92), probably because it just looked like someone splashing about in the water.
Club Swinging (St Louis, 1904)
This one sounds more like a night on the town for experimental couples. Don’t get too excited though as it was actually a rhythmic gymnastic style event that saw competitors swing a club covered with ribbons around their head. It made its only appearance at the St Louis games of 1904, and the United States took a clean sweep of the medals. This might explain why a similar event called “Indian clubs” was staged at the 1932 games in Los Angeles. Those Americans love a bit of club swinging.
Bonus: Pistol Dueling (Athens, 1906)
The reason this one’s only a bonus is that the 1906 ‘Inter-calculated’ games in Athens aren’t counted as an official Olympics. It’s a shame, because pistol duelling sounds amazingly dangerous and cool. However, it wasn’t actually dangerous at all as the competitors fired at dummies (wearing coats and hats) instead of each other, which I find a little disappointing to be honest.
When he’s not watching and writing about sport, Robert Jones looks for unusual gifts for the online retailer Find Me A Gift.
- A Great Olympian Let Down (brutusreport.blogspot.com)
- How Many Different Competitions Are Part of An Olympic Pentathlon? (fryingpansports.com)