Top 15 “Sports” Abolished At the Summer Olympics (For Obvious Reasons)
The Olympics have been around for a pretty long time. While the modern Olympic Games began back in 1896 in Athens, the ancient Olympic Games date back around 800 BC and ran for about 450 years. Emperor Theodosius I abolished them as part of a campaign to impose Christianity as the State religion of Rome — the Games honored Zeus. Likewise, some sports were dumped during the short history of the modern games. Let’s take a look at the Top 15 Sports that are no longer part of the Summer Olympic Games!
15. Motor Boating
Motor boating may sound a lot like something that Vince Vaughn’s character was describing in Wedding Crashers. It was actually a competition during the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. Also known as powerboating or water motor sports, it involved men racing motor boats.
Because the action was pretty much invisible to spectators — it took place far off Southampton — it only lasted one Olympic Games. Some argue that any racing involving a motor isn’t a sport — cough, Nascar, cough — considering the Olympics are supposed to be the pinnacle of human athleticism.
14. 56 lb. Weight Throw
The thing about the Olympics is that they’re not very creative when it comes to naming their events. The 56-pound weight throw was an event that was exactly what you think it was: a man lifting and then throwing a 56-pound weight. This ancient “sport” — or really, feat of strength — was very similar to a traditional event in Scottish Highland Games — and would fit right in any Strong-Man Competition.
Despite its longevity as a sport it only lasted in the Olympics for two non-consecutive games, the 1904 and 1920 games. Unlike the Highland Games, though, competitors were allowed to use both of their hands to throw the weight. In 1904 the decathlon included this event — which means that there’s a Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner joke floating around out there, somewhere. The winner of both events (in 1904 and 1920) were police officers who threw the weight over 34 feet! Makes you feel bad for any perps they arrested!
13. Ice Hockey
Ice Hockey is still an Olympic Sport, just a Winter Olympic sport. Few people know that it was also a Summer sport in 1920. Seven teams participated in the sport’s first games including the United States, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, France, Sweden and Belgium.
The tournament was played under the Bergvall system during the 1912, 1920 and 1924 Olympics. Canada outscored their opponents 27 to 1 in the tournament and won gold while the United States took home silver. The Czechs, who only won one game, somehow ended up winning the bronze medal. The oddity helped end hockey’s run as an Olympic sport — until the Winter Games — and the end of the Bergvall system.
12. Rope Climb
Of a lot of the events on this list, rope climbing was in a lot more games than most — five to be exact, including the first Games ever in 1896. Considered a gymnastic event, the rope climb wasn’t like gym class. Starting from a seated position on the floor, competitors would climb a suspended rope using only their hands. The winner was whoever could climb the rope in the shortest time possible.
In the first Olympics, the rope was about 45 feet long (15 meters). The event was a speed-based competition only. Later though, the length was shortened and “style” was incorporated into the scoring. Those changes were implemented after only two competitors made it to the top of the rope at the 1896 Games. Watching athletes fail to climb a rope probably poked a hole in the interest around this event.
11. Club Swinging
Known as Indian clubs or meels, these were a form of exercise equipment mostly meant for building strength. They could weigh up to 50 pounds. They looked a lot like bowling or juggling pins. This sport appeared in two Olympic games, first in 1904 and again in 1932 and is considered by some to be the precursor of modern rhythmic gymnastics — sort of like the ribbon dance Will Ferrell performs at the end of Old School.
The gymnast would stand with a club in each hand and spin them around — without juggling — in what was considered to be a complicated routine. Unlike some of their heavier counterparts, each club reportedly only weight about a pound and a half each and some were decorated with streamers.
10. Men’s Sailors 100 Meter Freestyle
This sport was probably the strangest of all the discontinued Olympic sports, or at least had the strangest set of rules. The swimming event only allowed the home country’s competitors: Greek sailors. There were also only three competitors allowed, all from the Greek Royal Navy — and guaranteed to medal. The purpose was to increase Greece’s medal count. The gold medal winner, Ioannis Malokinis, had a time of over two minutes and 20 seconds — over a minute slower than the winner of the regular 100 meter freestyle.
9. Solo Synchronized Swimming
Synchronized swimming is actually quite impressive and takes a lot of strength, stamina, choreography, and timing. What’s also interesting about it is the team based-aspect —because you know, it’s syncronized. So hearing there used to be a solo synchronized event is interesting.
What’s even more surprising is that the three games the solo competition took place in were all recent, from 1984 to 1992. For someone to be synchronized they have to be in sync with someone else. Isn’t someone in the pool alone the antithesis of synchronization?
8. Obstacle Race (Swimming)
If there is any event on this list that needs to be brought back it’s the obstacle race. Active only year (1900), it combined a 200 meter swim race and a set of obstacles. The swimmers had to climb over a pole, run, jump and climb over a set of boats, then swim under another row of boats in the River Seine. One other interesting tidbit: the winner of this race also won the general 200 meter freestyle. And instead of a gold-medal, he was given a 50-lb bronze horse. Probably because they were planning on making the swimmers wear it around their waists in the 1904 games version. Too bad we didn’t get to see it. #BringBacktheObstacleRace should definitely be a top trending topic come the next Olympics.
This underwater swim race only took place in the 1900 Games in Paris. The event had a maximum length of 60 meters and wasn’t really a race as much as a game. Competitors were given two points for each meter they swam underwater and another point for every second spent underwater.
6. Plunge for Distance (Diving)
The sport began with a standing dive. Competitors had to remain underwater and motionless for a minute or until their heads broke the surface of the water. It was more about the depth at which they could dive than holding their breath. People had to use their original momentum from the dive, hence the motionlessness, and weren’t allowed to continue to swim downwards. The maximum depth reached was 62.5 feet by William Dickey of the United States of America — USA! USA! The Americans who swept the medals were all members of the same New York Athletic Club — where they got good at sinking without cement shoes.
5. One-Hand Weight Lifting
One-Hand Weight Lifting wasn’t what you thought it was, or what it sounds like — it isn’t a Friday night for most singles, cough. This was a men’s only event that took place over the course of the first three Olympic Games. It wasn’t dissimilar to the unfortunately named snatch weight lifting of modern games.
Using one hand, the participants had to perform lifts, alternating from hand to hand as they did so — with three attempts per participant. After combining the scores athletes got from each hand, judges determined a winner. One of the few events on this list that evolved into something better and didn’t just completely disappear, this competition was one of the strangest weight lifting sports in Olympics history.
4. Dueling Pistol
Back in the day, people would duel to solve their problems. Though never recognized by the International Olympic Committee, duelling pistol shooting was allowed in 1906 at the Intercalated Games — the Olympic Games’ weird cousin.
From a distance of either 20 or 25 meters, participants would shoot lifesize dummies dressed in frock coats with the bullseye on the chest — as opposed to their face. The shooter would have the loaded pistol at their side, cocked. After the range officer asked the shooter if the were ready, they’d count to three.
The shooter would then get 30 shots and could get a maximum score of 150. The bullseye was worth 5 points. Since conversation was a bloodless way to resolve conflicts, duelling — IRL and at the games — went the way of the dinosaur.
In Paris at the 1900 Games, croquet — which sounds French now that we’re talking about this — debuted as one of the new games at the second Olympiad. France took all of the medals across multiple events. It was a very progressive game: though none of them medaled, three women participated with men.
Despite the lack of television, Internet and electricity in a lot of places, croquet was boring even back then. Reportedly — hilariously — only one person showed up to watch the croquet games: an Englishman who traveled all the way to Paris for the event.
Nowadays, the tug-of-war is more as a dreaded company picnic team building exercise than an Olympic sport. Yet, if you think about it, the idea of men and women from different countries literally attempting to pull another country over a certain line with brute strength can’t be the most boring sport on this list. Tug-of-war (ToW) was included in five of the first six games.
One of the few — if perhaps only — sport on this list that was part of the original games, it first appeared at the 500 BC games. The modern ToW was a contest between two teams of eight men. In order to win, one team had to pull the other six feet over the line to win. If after five minutes no team had accomplished this, the team that had pulled the furthest won.
1. Art Competitions
Somehow, a few different art competitions not only existed at the Olympic Games, but were the longest running of any on this list. They existed in some variation from 1912 through 1948. It wasn’t even the fact that it was freaking art that ended their involvement in the games, but the fact that the majority of the artists were professionals. There still is an Olympic “cultural program,” but it doesn’t hand out medals like in the past.
Architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture were all events once. So, when people talk about the “good old days,” from now on just realize they’re referring to a time where people’s idea of the pinnacle of sport involved watching artists sculpt.
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