Updated 06 August 2016

10 weird ex-Olympic events

Many truly odd events have been briefly included in the Olympics over the years. Anyone for poodle clipping or hot air ballooning?


There's great excitement for fans of rugby sevens as the sport is included for the first time in the Rio Olympics 2016. It seems like the time of this fast-paced sport has finally come and exciting moments lie ahead. But not all sports seem such a natural fit for this gathering of the world's greatest athletes.

What are the criteria for inclusion of a sport in the Olympic programme? In short, a two-thirds majority vote is required of the members of the International Olympic community (IOC) to include a new sport, or exclude an old one. Factors taken into consideration include history and tradition of the sport, popularity, universality, image, cost, athlete's health, and the development of the International Federation that governs the sport.

Attention is also paid to the traditions of the host country, which is why poodle clipping was included in the 1900 Olympic Games held in Paris, but never again.

Check out this Youtube video of  some of the weird events no longer found on the Olympic programme.

Here's more about some of these.

Tug-of-war. This is a game of strength, which consists of two teams pulling a rope in opposite directions until the mid-point of the rope passes into the territory of one of the teams. Most people associate this sport with school sports days or funfairs. But it was an Olympic event from 1900 to 1920.

Live pigeon shooting. This was only part of the Games in the year 1900, after which it was replaced by clay pigeon shooting. Live pigeons were released in front of participants: two misses and you were out. The winner was the person who shot the most birds. It's not really difficult to see why this was discontinued.

Plunging. This was held only once in 1904. This involved the rather pointless exercise of diving into a pool of water and remaining completely motionless until a minute was over, or your head popped out of the water. The person who was the furthest from the edge of the pool from where they had dived in was the winner.

Standing triple jump. If you think of the jumping events today, it involves a lot of high-speed running. But from 1900 to 1920, triple jump, long jump and high jump were also contested from a standing position.

Solo synchronised swimming. This doesn't sound right – usually synchronised swimming is done in teams, right? But no, this has been an event at the Olympics in 1984, 1988 and 1992 Games. A woman gets into a pool and tries to synchronise  her swimming with the music being played.

Swimming obstacle race. In Paris in 1900 this event was held in the River Seine. Competitors swam about 200 metres, but in between had to climb a pole sticking out of the water, swim to some boats and climb over them, swim to some more boats and swim under them. It isn't difficult to see why this didn't catch on.

Gliding. In 1936 at the Berlin Olympic Games, gliding was included as an Olympic sport. But that was the one and only time. Many think it was included to show off the fast-flying German planes. Even though gliding was listed as an official sport in 1940, the Games were cancelled because of WWII, and after the war, people had lost their enthusiasm for sports involving fast-flying planes after experiencing firsthand what they could do.

Kabaddi. This was also included only once. It is a sort of team-wrestling sport in which the object is for one member of a team to enter the other side's half of the field, and score points by tagging or wrestling the opponents. The attacker must then return to his side of the field, but has to hold his breath the whole time. Quite pointless it seems, but apparently popular in South East Asia.

Poodle clipping. This is no joke. It was part of the Olympics in Paris in 1900, although it was just a trial event. 128 people competed in a Parisian Park in front of a crowd of 6000 to see who could clip the fur off the most poodles in a two-hour period. It isn't difficult to see why this didn't catch on.

Hot air ballooning. Again part of the Olympics in 1900 in Paris. Several hot air ballooning events were held and the French won them all. They tested distance, duration, elevation and targeted stopping.


(Susan Erasmus,, July 2012)

Read more:
Find out why animals would beat humans in so many Olympic events.




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