Strange Ex Olympic Sports

The 2022 Winter Games are Here

Am I watching? Not really. A little curling here and there. Some bobsledding. I watched a male figure skater body slam his partner onto the ice, that was entertaining. It’s strange watching the games with no fans in attendance… and China being China makes it less desirable for me.

The games have changed over time. Maybe I’m more of a summer Olympics guy.

Or maybe…

Or maybe they need to look back in the Olympic history books and bring back some events that are no longer included.

Let’s discuss a few of those.


Popinjay, or ‘Pole Archery’ only made an appearance in one Olympics. 1920 saw only Belgians competing in the competition so it isn’t really a mystery who got the medals. Popinjay is a shooting sport, using either rifles or bows. The goal of popinjay is to knock artificial bird targets off their perches. The rifle version is popular in Denmark and Scotland. The archery version, like the one seen in the 1920 Olympic games has its roots in Belgium.

I’d be interested to know where the arrows or bullets go when a target is missed.

Rope Climb

Yes, the thing you hated in gym class used to be an official Olympic sport. It tried to make a comeback a few different times but fizzled out after 1932. Rope Climbing was classified under ‘gymnastics’ and the goal was to get to the top quicker than your opponent.

In 1932, Los Angeles hosted the Olympics. Only five people competed, three from the USA and two from Hungry. The U.S. swept the medals and the International Olympic Committee said ‘no more.’

Basque Pelota

Basque pelota is very popular even today but its only appearance in the Olympics was in 1900. Spain and France each have a version. It’s popular in Latin America and parts of the USA where it is commonly referred to as Jai Alai.

The sport is dangerous, the ball can travel around 120 miles per hour. Depending on what version you are playing, contestants may use their hands, a racket, a wooden bat or a basket. It can be played against a wall or, more traditionally, with two teams face to face separated by a line on the ground or a net. Like death tennis.

Plunge for Distance

You’re standing on the edge of your neighbors pool. You dive in and without moving or swimming you see how far you can torpedo through the chlorine filled water. You’ve just ‘Plunged for Distance’.

It only made it into one Olympic games and it’s not hard to see why. In 1893 an English reporter wrote, “Spectators were not enamored of it, as the diver “moves after thirty or forty feet at a pace somewhat akin to a snail, and to the uninitiated the contests appear absolute wastes of time.”

The cool thing is that the contestant didn’t need to be in shape, they just needed to hold their breath as long as they could.

Equestrian Vaulting

Equestrian Vaulting only made one appearance at the Olympics. If you’ve never heard of Equestrian Vaulting just picture everything you see a gymnast doing on a pommel horse only on a real moving horse. Like a spinny, flippy, gymnastics routine on a moving object.

You can see it done today at competitions all over, or at a circus, just not at the Olympics. It’s been around for centuries but I’m guessing the horses don’t love it.

Tug of War

The popular game amongst company picnic goers and family reunion attendees alike was once a prominent Olympic sport. Why it’s not still going strong today, I’m not sure.

The competition was entered by groups called clubs. If necessary a country could enter more than one club in the competition. It was therefore possible for one country to earn multiple medals. Which happened at least three times. Britain claims the rights to the highest tug of war medal count with five.

Apparently the International Olympic Committee no longer sees it as a sport. Boo.

Other Ex-Olympic Sports

Cricket (1900), Croquet (1900), Lacrosse (1904, 1908), Polo (1900-1936), 15-a-side Rugby (1900-1924)

As far as winter games that have been cancelled, Dog Sled Racing, Military Patrol, Snowshoeing, Synchronized Skating and Ski Ballet are just a few of the ‘sports’ to be nixed.

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