Weirdest sports included in the Olympics: Tug of War

The Weirdest Sports Ever Included In The Olympics

Pigeons, hot air balloons, and water obstacles — these are some weird inclusions in the history of the Olympics.

Competing in the Olympics is a dream for many athletes — to become the Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, or Usain Bolts of their own sports. After all, this is the very stage where athletes turn into global icons. But once upon a time, you could become an Olympian for sports much less known than swimming, gymnastics, or athletics.

Here are some of the weirdest sports that have ever been included in the Olympics.

Plunge for distance
Weirdest sports included in the Olympics: Plunge for Distance
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Remember when you were a kid and you and your friends tried to see who could hold their breath the longest underwater? Well, the Olympic sport known as ‘plunge for distance’ was something kind of like that.

In the 1900 Paris Olympics, the organizers included the plunge for distance as part of the games for the first and last time in history. In this event, the athletes would dive into a pool and glide underwater, remaining still. Whoever was able to glide the longest before coming up to the surface would win.

In 1900, only five competitors entered the plunge for distance competition, and it was never held in the Olympics again.

Solo synchronized swimming
Weirdest sports included in the Olympics: Solo synchronized swimming
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The term ‘synchronized’ doesn’t really go hand-in-hand with the word ‘solo’. If you’re flying solo, who are you trying to be in sync with?

Despite this paradox, solo synchronized swimming was a sport in the Olympics where athletes would dance in the water to music. It was surprising to many that this was included in the games in the first place, but what may be even more surprising is that it was included three times, in 1984, 1988, and 1992.

Obstacle swim
Obstacle Swimming in the 1900 Paris Olympics
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Another strange entry in the 1900 Paris Olympics was the 200-meter obstacle swim race. Here, athletes had to climb up poles and get through rows of boats in the famous River Seine. While this was undoubtedly a challenging event, to call it an Olympic sport at the time might have been a stretch. It more seems like a glorified version of the show Wipeout.

They must have quickly realized this, as 1900 was its first and last Olympic appearance.

Live pigeon shooting
Live pigeon shooting
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In 1900, you could have called yourself an Olympian if you enjoyed shooting at pigeons.

It’s hard to look back and believe that live pigeon shooting was ever an Olympic sport, but it was. The objective was to kill the most pigeons by shooting at them, and if you missed two in a row, you were eliminated. In the end, the competitor who killed the most would win. That year, nearly 300 birds died all in the name of sport.

Thankfully, live animals were never used for Olympic sports after this.

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Croquet is a pastime many people might imagine reading about in a Jane Austen novel, as a fun game for the characters to bond over. But in 1900, it was more than just an afternoon pastime — it was an Olympic event.

Though it may sound like a silly inclusion, croquet actually holds a place in Olympic history because it was one of the first sports that included women competitors. However, after 1900, the game wasn’t included again as the organizers probably came to realize that not a great deal of athleticism was required to play.

Weirdest sports included in the Olympics: ballooning
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Ballooning, which basically refers to flying hot air balloons, was included in the 1900 Olympics as an unofficial sport. However, the winners of the events still went home with prizes for reaching the longest distance, the longest time, the greatest height, the closest landing to the target, and a host of others.

Though it was just a demonstration sport in 1900, it is definitely one of the stranger events to make it to the history books of the Olympics.

Tug of war
Weirdest sports included in the Olympics: Tug of War
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

If you ever played tug of war in school with your friends, you know that this actually takes a great deal of coordination and physicality. And from 1900 to 1920, these skills were put to the test on the Olympic stage.

As an Olympic sport, two teams of eight would pull a rope on opposing ends, and the team that pulled the other by six feet would win. If after five minutes neither managed to reach six feet, then the team who had pulled the longer distance would win.

Banner image from Freepik.

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