It’s always exciting to see which sports get added to the Olympic roster, but what about those that are shed in order to make room for the new?
You might be surprised at some of the sports that were once prestigious enough to be included in the Olympic Games. Tug-of-war? Ski ballet? Why not!
It turns out that Tug-of-War was once taken pretty seriously. The sport, part of the track and field program, was included in six different Olympic Games throughout the early 20th century. Teams consisted of eight athletes per side, and victory was declared when one team had pulled the rope six feet. Great Britain and U.S. claimed the most victories.
Spins, jumps, crossovers and flips: what could be more graceful than a choreographed performance with two planks affixed to your feet? Sadly, ski ballet never made it past the demonstration sport stage. After attempts in the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympic Games, ski ballet enthusiasts eventually gave up the fight. The sport will forever live on in the classic ski bum film, Hot Dog.
You’ve probably seen jugglers toss bowling-pin like clubs into the air on a street corner somewhere. Believe it or not, a similar sport, club swinging, was part of the 1904 and 1932 Olympics. Unlike juggling, the clubs in this sport did not leave the hands. They were whirled and swung around quickly in an elaborate routine, not entirely unlike today’s rhythmic gymnastics.
While the thought of croquet might conjure up images of a jovial family picnic, it was actually demonstrated at the 1900 Olympic Games. The story goes that a whopping ten athletes partook in the competition—nine of whom were from France (the tenth was a lone Belgian). Shockingly, the French swept the gold medals for all seven croquet events.
Perhaps the least-creatively named sport, Rackets is a lot like squash, with a few minor differences, like the use of a longer racket. It was part of the 1908 Olympic Games, but the only country represented was Great Britain. It did not make the cut in the following years.
Surely, the vehicles used in the 1908 Olympic Games power boating events were a little different than those we have today. Maximum speeds topped out at roughly 19 miles per hour, and events consisted of the eight-meter category, the 60-foot category, and the open class. The events took place in the UK, and poor weather cancelled six of the nine races. The sport failed to make it to future Olympics games.
In 1972, water skiing appeared as a demonstration sport. Despite the variety of events—including figure skiing—the sport failed to catch on, unlike the other demonstration sport that year: badminton. Not ready to call it a day, water skiing reappeared in both the 1988 and 1992 Summer Olympic Games as a demonstration sport. Alas, neither of these subsequent attempts were successful.
Is there a gym class activity more despised than rope climbing? In 1896, 1904, 1906, 1924 and 1932, athletes shimmied their way up long ropes (ranging in length from roughly eight to 15 meters, depending on the year) using only their hands. It wasn’t just a time trial: athletes were also judged based on their style. In its inaugural year, only two of the athletes actually managed to get to the top of the rope.
Swimming Obstacle Race
If you were the champion of the swimming obstacle races at your summer camp, just think—had you been born in another decade, you could have been a decorated athlete! Swimming obstacle races were part of the 1900 Olympic Games and involved an elaborate course in France’s Seine River. Stations included climbing over a pole, and plowing over and under rows of boats. Australia took the gold, in case you were wondering.
Solo Synchronized Swimming
Yes, you read that correctly. Solo synchronized swimming was an Olympic sport from 1984 to 1992, making it one of the more modern extinct Olympic Games. What is the swimmer synchronized to, you ask? Supposedly, it’s to the music—not to other swimmers. The two- and eight-person synchronized swimming events live on, but the solo event is now in the past.
Sad to have missed out on some of these sports? Don’t give up hope just yet: some sports, like archery and tennis, were once removed from the Olympic roster, only to be added back on in later years.