Most people are all familiar with the popular Olympic sports. In the summer games the main focus is on track and field, gymnastics, swimming and in recent years, beach volleyball. In the winter games most of the attention is on figure skating, skiing, hockey and, due in part to the Jamaicans, bobsledding.
However, over the history of the modern Olympic Games, there have been a great number of sports that made a brief appearance. Some are fairly well known, such as baseball and softball. Others are more obscure, while still others may be complete head scratchers.
1. Live pigeon shooting
Unfortunately, this is disgusting event is exactly what it sounds like. Live pigeons were released one at a time and competitors tried to shoot as many in a row as possible. As soon as a competitor missed two birds, they were eliminated. Nearly 300 birds were shot and killed. As one might expect this event turned quite messy as the field soon became littered with dead and wounded birds, feathers and blood.
To add to the weirdness, an award of 20,000 Francs was the prize for the winner. The top four finishers agreed to split the prize. Fortunately animal rights groups made enough noise that the Olympics organizers switched to clay pigeons in all their subsequent games. Either way, thankfully this marked the only time in Olympic history that animals were killed on purpose.
2. Tug of War
This somewhat familiar sport, probably most often experienced on the playground as kids, was a regular competition, making five appearances in the Olympic Games from 1900 to 1920. In the 1904 St. Louis Games, the American teams swept the medals probably giving a new meaning to home field advantage. Four years later, at the 1908 London Games, Great Britain returned the favor by sweeping all three medals on their home turf. Interestingly, all three British teams were composed of police officers.
The 1908 competition was not without its controversy, however. The American team, composed mostly of competitors in the throwing events were soundly defeated in the first pull by the Liverpool Police team. The Americans launched a protest stating that the boots worn by the British team constituted illegal footwear. The British team countered that the boots were part of the standard police attire. The protest was disallowed and the American team withdrew in disgust.
3. Two-handed throws
In the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm, in addition to the regular shot put, javelin and discus events, there was also a two-handed version of each. All three were scored the same. Each competitor got three throws with their left hand and then three throws with their right hand. The longest throws from each hand were added together to get the total distance. Surprising (or maybe not that surprisingly) there were many duplicate medal winners in the one-handed and two-handed events. In the javelin, Julius Saaristo of Finland won the silver medal in the one-handed and the gold in the two-handed. In the discus, Armas Taipale of Finland won the gold in both the one-handed and two-handed. And in the shot put, the top four throwers in the one-handed event were the same as those in the two-handed, though they finished in a different order.
4. Rope climbing
Rope climbing was part of the gymnastics program. At its high point in the 1924 Paris Olympics, it had seven competitors from nine nations. Rope climbing has had a long and often times popular standing around the world, although maybe not that popular if you were subjected to rope climbing in high school gym class. In the United States, competitive rope climbing was sanctioned by the NCAA until the early 1960’s. There are still international rope climbing events held today. In the rope climbing competitors started from a sitting position and could only use their arms to climb. In Olympic competition both time and style (keeping the legs horizontal to the ground) were considered in scoring.
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