From kite flying to firefighting, tug of war, and more, these are some of the sports you didn’t know were actually played in the Olympic games.
Every Olympics, the line-up of games slightly shift as new games are added, some are tweaked, while others are removed. In the more than 120-year history, of the Olympics, many games and sports have been played. The sporting event has seen its fair share of discontinued games or demonstration sports (sports played to promote it, not officially part of the medal tally), some of which you wouldn’t expect to be done in an Olympics. With that being said, here are 10 sports you didn’t know were played in the Summer Olympic Games.
The Olympics isn’t just home to physical feats and prowess. For a time, the Olympics also hosted events for the arts and creatives. From 1912-1948, the Olympics had art competitions in the following categories: architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture. To be honest, we wouldn’t mind seeing some of these events return in the future.
Depending on who you ask, watching hot-air balloons as a sport may not be the most exciting thing in the world. In the 1900 Paris Games, Ballooning was one of the games played but competitors wouldn’t race each other. Instead, they would fly their balloons as close to a marked target as possible and then drop a weighted marker. Whoever had the closest marker won the game.
You mostly think of cannons as weapons used in times of war from the medieval ages onwards. But in the 1900 Olympics, cannon shooting was a featured event. Not much is known about what happened though it reportedly had 17 different events. All the events were for men and only the French participated.
Most sports in the modern Olympics aren’t designed to intentionally harm you or your opponent. But back in the early days of the Olympics, there was a chance for competitors to intentionally get hurt if they participated in dueling pistols. The sport was first played during an Olympic event in 1906. Participants would shoot a pistol loaded with wax bullets at dummies dressed as real people. But in the 1908 London Olympics, they took things a step further by having the athletes shoot each other with wax bullets. They did wear protective coverings, but we can imagine how much it would have hurt to get shot.
You read that right. Firefighting was at one point played during the Olympics. The event was split into two categories: professional firefighters and volunteer firefighters. According to a report by A.G. Spalding, winners were determined by how well they could extinguish a fire and perform a rescue. Supposedly, a fire was started on the third floor of a six-story building. Competitors would then have to put that fire out and rescue people trapped on the fifth and sixth floor. In the volunteers’ category; Portugal won gold, the UK won silver, and Hungary won bronze. Only two teams competed in the professional category and the US won gold while Italy won silver. To this day, there are actually games held for firefighters called World Firefighter’s Games.
Today, kite flying is seen as a leisurely activity enjoyed in parks and open spaces. But in the 1900 Summer Olympics, it was a competitive sport. According to reports, kite flying was split into two events. The first one had competitors fly their kites to reach the highest altitude they can in one hour. Highest altitude wins. The second event required competitors to have their kites remain in the air for two hours. Because of the large number of people who showed up to play, the second event was split into three categories: small kites, medium kites, and large kites.
In the 1908 Olympic games, motor boating was part of the official lineup of sports. This was the only time in the Olympics’ history that a motorized sport was officially part of the games. The sport consisted of three races. In each race, competitors have to circle an eight nautical mile course five times. These days, boat racing is a fast-paced affair, but back in 1908, the motorized boats they have were still works-in-progress and aren’t as fast as today’s motorboats. The UK won two races while France won one. The sport has never been played in the Olympics since.
SOLO SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING
As weird as it sounds, solo synchronized swimming was an official sport at the Olympics. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics saw the debut of solo and duet synchronized swimming at the games. Since they don’t have a partner, competitors in solos would synchronize their moves to the music. Solo synchronized swimming was also played during the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Both duet and solo synchronized swimming were replaced by team synchronized swimming in the 1996 Atlanta Games, but duets were brought back in the 2000 Athens Olympics. Solos has yet to make a return.
TUG OF WAR
The game played in both extended family gatherings and sports fests was at one time, an official Olympic sport. Tug of War was played starting in the 1900 Olympics until the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. Teams would consist of five members (later increased to eight) as each team had to pull a certain length of the rope to their side. The UK, USA, Sweden, and a mixed team comprised of different nationalities were recorded to have won the games. Though the game is still played competitively as the Tug of War International Federation organizes a world championship for it every two years.
Bowling has yet to be made an official Olympic sport. Instead, it was a demonstration sport played in numerous Olympic games. Most notably, it was played during the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Technically, bowling got the Philippines its first-ever gold medal at the Olympics when Arianne Cerdeña. The then 26-year-old Filipina won the women’s bowling event with a final score of 249. Her win was actually the first time the country’s national anthem was played at an Olympics awarding ceremony.
While golf is a sport currently played at the Olympics, for a long time, that wasn’t the case. Golf first made its appearance at the Games in the 1900 and 1904 games. But after that, gold was never played in the Olympics for more than 100 years. Only in the 2016 Rio Games was golf finally reinstated into the Olympics where it is also currently being played at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
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