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olympic sports of the past included tug-of-war
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10 Olympic sports events that (thankfully) never caught on

July 1908: The United States tug-of-war team in action during the 1908 London Olympics at White City Stadium. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Most of us can name a few Olympic sports from both the Summer and the Winter Games. We might even have a favorite or two we like to watch. 

But it might surprise you to learn that the sports that wound up becoming hallowed Olympic events changed from time to time. Just as surfing and skateboarding came to the games relatively recently, the games periodically go through some pruning. 

10 forgotten Olympic sports

Featured at the Olympic Games surrounding the turn of the 20th century, these 10 sports once held a key position in the games, before we relegated them to the memories of the past. 

1. Live Pigeon Shooting

This event happened just once at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris. After protests from animal rights activists, future Games traded the live pigeons in for clay birds instead.

2. Croquet

The first of the Olympic sports that women could play, according to The Coolist, croquet also showed up just once, again, at the 1900 Games. 

3. Plunge for distance

Debuting at just one Olympics, the 1904 Games in St. Louis, Mo., competitors in the plunge for distance event dove into a pool and remained motionless for a minute; the athlete who glided the farthest won. Five men participated in the event, all Americans; William Dickey took home gold with a distance of almost 63 feet. 

4. Motor boating

Assistance from a motor doesn’t seem very sporting, does it? Motor boating was an official Olympic event at only the 1908 Games in London from from April 27 to October 31. Not too impressive by today’s Olympic sports standards — back then, top speeds hit just 19 mph.

5. Pistol dueling

The 1908 Games also featured pistol dueling in which two male competitors fired at each other with pistols loaded with wax bullets; the athletes wore protective equipment for the torso, face and hands.

6. One-hand weightlifting

Similar to the modern snatch weightlifting, one-hand weightlifting was featured at the Olympics Games in 1896, 1904 and 1906. 

7. Poodle clipping

As part of the Olympics in Paris in 1900, poodle clipping was a trial event in which 128 people competed before a crowd of 6,000 spectators to see who could clip the fur off the most poodles in a two-hour period.

8. Tug-of-war

An Olympic event from 1900 to 1920, tug-of-war involved burly competitors tugging on a rope until the midpoint passed a certain point in the territory of the opposing team, signaling victory. Just like summer camp. 

9. 200 meter swimming obstacle race

Held in the River Seine in Paris during the 1900 Games, the 200 meter swimming obstacle race involved competitors swimming under a row of boats and climbing over a pole and another row of boats, all while dealing with the river’s current. The swimming obstacle course never returned to the Olympics.

10. Two hands javelin

This event was held once – at the 1912 Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Athletes weren’t required to throw the javelin with both hands. Instead, each competitor threw the javelin three times in his right hand and three times in his left. The best distance with each hand was totaled to determine the winner.

What Olympic sports would you like to see make a comeback? Which ones need to stay in the history books? Send us an email at and let us know what you think. 

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