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Gold Medal in Weird: Some of the Oddest Olympic Events Ever

Gold Medal in Weird: Some of the Oddest Olympic Events Ever

By Beth Mishler

Hey, Masterminds! As you may know, we here at MindHut, sometimes like to celebrate the bizarre, the unique, or the just plain ‘Huh?!’ With the 2012 London Olympics in full swing, we decided to compile some of the crazier events in Olympic history. Here’s what we found:

MOST OXYMORONIC: Solo synchronized swimming

Yes. That is correct. From 1984-1992, Olympic medals were awarded in this event, in which only females competed. The synchronization factor? The solo participants danced in sync with a song that played over the loudspeakers. It only took the Olympic committee 12 years to figure out that synchronization was more applicable if there are multiple people involved!

GEEKIEST EVENT(S): Art Competitions

Art and lit lovers—your geekiest obsessions (architecture, sculpting, music, literature, and painting) were a part of the Olympic Games for over 50 years. Poetry in particular has an interesting and longstanding tradition with the Olympics, as several odes and poems have won gold medals, particularly in the earlier part of the 20th Century. The only rule regarding the projects entered in competitions was that they were required to cite sport(s) as their inspiration. Art competitions were a part of the Olympics until 1952.

MOST OLD-TIMEY: Dueling Pistols

We know what you’re thinking: and no, no one was actually shot! Competitors shot at target dummies clad in coats with targets painted on their chests, not at each other. This event was very short-lived (as many on this list are), but at least no one was killed (Unlike in our next event).

LEAST ATHLETIC: Live pigeon shooting

Who needs clay pigeons when you have the real thing? Apparently that was the mindset in the 1900 Olympics in Paris, where reportedly over 300 pigeons were released and killed by competitors. Clay pigeons were used after that, and are still used today.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY ANIMALS: Long jump for horses

The Olympics held in 1900 were clearly not kind to our animal friends! This event was, like the shooting of live pigeons, only around for one Olympics, and was in theory supposed to showcase equestrian talents by seeing how far horses could jump! It was cancelled due to lack of interest.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY MACHINERY: Motorboat Racing.

Held at the Summer Olympics in 1908, people raced motorboats around an 8-mile course in three different events that were very similar to each other. When only one or two boats finished in each event due to heavy traffic, the event was discontinued.

COOLEST FORMER DEMONSTRATION SPORT: La Canne

Often compared to fencing, La Canne is a French martial art where you whoop ass avec a walking stick-sized cane. It wasn’t a regular Olympic event, but a demonstration sport featured in the 1920’s. (Demonstration sports were specialty sports various countries brought to the Olympics to promote their own unique athletic offerings as nations. They were never included in the medal count, even though they were a part of nearly every Olympic Games from 1912 until their end in 1992). La Canne is still widely popular globally, and there are several countries that are pushing for its inclusion in the Olympics in the future.

BEST UNISEX EVENT: Korfball

Another demonstration sport, korfball is like basketball on a soccer field. It’s not as fast-paced as basketball—it is to basketball what slow-pitch is to softball. Teams have 8 players each; four fellas and four ladies. They play two 30-minute halves, and the goal is to shoot a soccer ball through a “hoop” that looks like a wicker basket with the bottom removed. It looks kinda old school, but that also lends to its charm, as does its openness to both genders competing against each other in a friendly atmosphere.

What wild and crazy Olympic events have you heard of?

Tags: sports, london, life, the olympics, defunct olympic events

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About the Author
Beth Mishler

Beth Mishler is a writer, producer, and pop culture connoisseur who has a weakness for the Whedonverse and all things sci-fi. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Beth currently lives in The Plains, Ohio, where she freelances, makes documentaries, and watches a kazillion hours of TV per week while anxiously awaiting the release of George R.R. Martin's next novel.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.