Discontinued Olympic Sports

There are dozens of weird and wonderful sports that made it into the Olympic Games in the early 20th Century. Here I present some that I found the most amusing.

Underwater swimming was held only once (1900) due to lack of excitement for the audience. The Plunge for Distance event (diving in then getting the most distance without resurfacing) in the following games fell for a similar reason.

Also in the swimming theme, the amazingly named Solo Synchronised Swimming  made it into the 1984 and 1992 games. While it is impressive, quite what the word synchronised means in this setting is unclear.

Finally in swimming I have to mention the Swimming Obstacle Race, which involved clambering over, then swimming under some boats.

Two handed throwing events were slightly different to you might expect. They involved throwing with one hand and then throwing with the other. Two Handed Javelin, Discus and Shotput all existed.

Pre-war shooting events were popular. Dueling Pistols saw a few different forms, but my favourite involved having your weapon holstered and being given a count of "Fire, one, two, three" by which time you had to have upholstered, aimed and fired at a human cutout with a target on its heart. Very wild west. Running Deer Shooting was similar and had a quick moving deer cutout.

Both Horse Long Jump and Horse High Jump saw play in 1900. Amazingly the Horse Long Jump record is only 8.40m, which is a fair bit shorter than the human world record of 8.95m. Their high jump of 2.47m only beats the human one by 2cm.

Sherlock Holmes' particular brand of fencing, Singlestick, has a quaint feel as a swashbuckling variant played with wooden swords where the object is to destroy the delicate pate on the other person's forehead. This one you'll be familiar with if you have seen Elementary.

Art had many categories (Music, Reliefs, Oils and Watercolours etc) but for reasons I can't seem to work out, they often didn't award Gold medals if they didn't think the level was competitive enough. For example in 1948 Alex Diggelmann won both Silver and Bronze in the Applied Art and Crafts category, but no one was awarded Gold. Very strange.

The idea of including these artistic categories was that the competitors should be trained in both mind and body. Although only two competitors ever have won medals in both a sporting and an artistic event. This strand of the Olympics was finally killed off in 1948 and with them Poetry, Architecture and Literature were permanently retired. It is probably worth mentioning that the founder of the Modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin won Gold in the 1912 Poetry Competetion and was a major part in getting the Poetry section set up in the first place.

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