Weird Olympic Sports You Won’t Believe
You may know about the typical Olympic events like running, swimming, and diving, but there are several Olympic sports that you might not be familiar with. In this list of the weirdest Olympic games, we explore some of the more unusual events that have graced the games over the years.
In this first part of an eight-part series, we look at some of the weirdest Olympic sports of all time and detail how these sports came to be. You won’t believe what made the cut!
100 Meter for Sailor
When you think Olympics, you think track and field. When you think track and field, you think sprints (100m), long jump, and high jump. And when you think sprints, what do you picture? Hurdles and hurdles. A sailor would have none of that to worry about with a 100m race in sailing. The only thing he has to worry about is staying upright for 100 seconds in the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh.
Four Swimming Events
There were four swimming events in the 1896 Summer Olympic Sports swimming program, including the men’s sailors’ 100-meter freestyle. The second swimming race was only open to sailors of the Greek Royal Navy. Eleven took part in the race, but only three of them actually swam. The winning time was nearly a minute slower than the open 100-meter freestyle. That has to make the weirdest list!
200 Meter Obstacle Swimming
The men’s 200-meter obstacle event held on 11 August and 12 August 1900, was an obstacle swimming event at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris. There were twelve athletes who competed from five different countries. Frederick Lane of Australia was the victor, followed by Otto Wahle of Austria in second place and Peter Kemp of Great Britain in third. Lane already had the upper hand, he was the uncontested winner of the 200-meter freestyle (no obstacles).
All Round Dumbbell Lifts
A sport called All-Turround Dumbbell Lifts was introduced to athletics at the Olympics. Competitors had two minutes to lift as many 100-pound dumbbells overhead as possible, starting with their left arm and alternating arms after each successful lift. At least three people participated in each round, and a final champion was crowned with the one who lifted more total dumbbells.
- In 1904, men competed in the dumbbells all-around event. Out of the three men who participated, only one won.
The NFL likes to say it’s America’s Game, but fans don’t really care about it until January, at which point there are only three and a half months left in their football-deprived lives. So why not come together in harmony by playing a real American sport – American football, in honor of these special winter games?
Sure, you won’t be able to use your hands or tackle anyone (because that would be dangerous), but you can still run around with a ball, throw it through the goalposts, and score points by kicking the said ball through said goal posts. It may not be as fast-paced as soccer or rugby (two other Olympic sports), but it has more scoring than lacrosse and will definitely get you excited for hockey season when February rolls around.
Summer Olympic Games
American football was included in the Summer Olympic Sports program in 1904 and 1932. In 1904, college football matches were played on Francis Field as part of an Olympic demonstration program, but not in the spirit of international competitive games.
The Ancient Art of Shooting Arrows at Trees. During London’s 2012 Olympics, archery made its first appearance in 1900. It’s been an official event in every modern Olympics since Paris in 1924. It has taken a number of different forms over the years (compound bows replaced traditional ones in 1972). Today, archers shoot at targets from 70 meters away. There is an Olympic archery competition for both men and women.
Archery had a single appearance in the Olympic Sports in 1900 and dropped off in 1912, only reappearing in 1972. At that time, the event lasted over the course of a week, with the person with the highest combined score becoming the champion, usually from the US. In 1992, the tournament switched to pitting archers head-to-head, where the top competitors go up the ladder based on their scores. That made the tournament more spectator-friendly.
Army Rifle Shooting
Competitive shooting is another of the weirdest sports that has been in existence since before even Ancient Greece. Competitive rifle shooters stand at a variety of distances from their targets and attempt to hit their bullseye. There are three different positions involved: prone, kneeling, and standing. Shooters can only hold 10 rounds in each magazine; however, if they shoot all 10 rounds on target, they get an extra five minutes to shoot as many shots as possible.
The men’s 300-meter military rifle three positions (originally called individual competition with army rifle) was a shooting sports event held as part of the Shooting at the 1912 Summer Olympics program. It was the second appearance of the event, which had been introduced in 1908. The competition was held on Monday, 1 July 1912.
Did you know that badminton is a surprisingly popular sport, one that’s actually featured in some Olympics? The game was invented in England. To play, players stand at either end of a court divided by a net, and they try to hit a shuttlecock back and forth with rackets.
Badminton first appeared in the Olympic Games as a demonstration sport in 1972 and as an exhibition sport in 1988. At the 1992 Games, it became a full-medal Olympic sport, with competition for men’s and women’s singles (one against one) and doubles (two against two). Mixed doubles were introduced at the 1996 Games.
Now, what exactly is Biathlon? It’s a combination of cross-country skiing and shooting a rifle. Yes, you read that correctly: cross-country skiing and shooting a rifle. One of the reasons it made it onto the weirdest Olympics list! Competitors ski for about 10 kilometers (6 miles) with their rifles slung over their shoulders or across their backs, stopping every so often to take aim at targets along the way. The sport was first contested in 1924.
First introduced in the 1924 Olympic Games, the Biathlon would become an official Olympic sport. Officially the event was accepted as an Olympic sport in 1955, but not part of the games the following year.
One of our favorites, but still, many folks don’t know that boxing is an official sport. It has been since 1904. Men’s and women’s boxing both became medal events in 1988. And did you know that there are weight classes? Or that boxers actually have to wear gloves? (We thought it was bare-knuckle fighting.) Even though it’s not a full-contact sport like judo or taekwondo, there have been several deaths from head injuries caused by punches to the head. In fact, one of those deaths occurred at an Olympics—the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.
A bizarre sport with an equally bizarre name, Cesta Punta is a Chilean sport in which two teams try to knock a little ball through each other’s basket by tossing it with long poles. Not only does it sound weird (or even dangerous), but nobody’s quite sure how you score points… and nobody seems to care.
The point of Cesta Punta is simply to enjoy yourself while trying not to die. In fact, there are no official rules regarding what constitutes dying in Cesta Punta; instead, players are expected to use their best judgment when deciding whether or not they should continue playing after being struck by a pole. It may be one of the weirdest sports at the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun!
- Cesta Punta was an official Olympic sport at the 1900 Paris Summer Games.
I hope you enjoyed this first part of the series “Weirdest Olympic Sports of All Time” Check back for more installments in this eight-part series. What do you think is the strangest Olympic sport? Do you know something that should be on this list, but isn’t? Let us know in the comments below. And as always, thank you for reading!