MONDAY JUNE 26, 2017
We hope you're enjoying the 2012 London Olympics. Just try not to think of all the fun you could be having, were these oddball sports still in play. From Ancient Greeks tearing each other limb from limb, to men in old timey clothes shooting at mannequins, the history the Olympics holds some truly strange sights.

9. CROQUET (1900)


Yes, Olympic croquet was a thing, once. For the 1900 Paris games, an early modern Olympics held during the World’s Fair, representative athletes from two countries showed up to croquet the crap out of each other. Belgium, not surprisingly, was schooled by France. Getting lost on the way to the contest would’ve been less embarrassing.

The 1900 games also featured Olympic ballooning, racquetball and automobile racing, which in 1900 consisted of pointing your car in the direction you hoped to go and holding on for dear life.

8. PANKRATION (Introduced 648 BC)


In Ancient Greece, MMA fighting would be a contest for small children and the elderly. Instead, they enjoyed “pankration” — an Olympic “sport” defined as anything-goes fighting. Though biting and eye-gouging were frowned upon, ball-squeezing, throat-punching and tooth-pulling were presumably allowed.

7. TUG OF WAR (1900 - 1920)


Tug of war may be the manliest of manly sports – it’s got “war” right there in the name, for chrissakes – but it didn’t last long in our modern world of baseball and ballroom dancing.

Interestingly, Scandinavian tuggers excelled. Below, we see the 1912 Swedish tug of war champion team, with uniforms on loan from the official 1912 Olympic dental health squad.




For the first modern Olympic Games, Greece made sure to collect as many medals as possible by excluding all other countries from at least one competition. The sailor’s 100-metre freestyle was only open to officers in the Greek Navy; Greece took gold, silver, and bronze, but ironically came dead last in sailing.

5. HOPLITODROMOS (Introduced 520 BC)


Ancient Greek athletes were more than just sportsmen; they were the strongest, least pansy-assed dudes in the land. In another word, soldiers.

To test their mettle, there was the hoplitodromos: a foot race in which contestants wore helmets and shin guards while carrying a wooden shield and running laps  – in the nude. Presumably seeing a thousand swingin’ Greek dicks cresting over a hill filled the rival Persian army with mortal terror.

Though the hoplitodromos sounds like the kind of thing someone would do under threat of worse torture, that hasn’t stopped men of today from attempting their own.



Though few remember it, Canada utterly trounced the United States at the first and only Olympic sled dog racing competition. In the world of sled dog racing this was a huge deal, and champion Emile St. Godard is currently the only musher in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. You can check out his display in the basement beside the snack machine.

3. ALPINISM (Introduced 1924)


Alpinism is a foppish word for climbing a goddamn mountain. It was granted Olympic prestige several times though the inherent danger involved, and the eagerness of amateurs, led to its discontinuation after World War II.

In 1924, medals were awarded for the most notable climbing feat of the past two years; gold went to the men behind the unsuccessful (though, at the time, record-breaking) attempted summit of Mt. Everest. Seven of those men had been killed in an avalanche, the first posthumous medals since the deadly croquet riots of 1904. Silver went to President Taft for a momentous climb out of his bathtub.




Shooting competitions have been part of Olympic history since the first modern games, rarely using live animals. But at the 1900 Paris games, which were clearly overseen by a raving lunatic, Leon de Lunden of Belgium killed 21 pigeons to secure his unusual legacy.

Animal rights activists protested the event, killing all hope of Olympic cow-tipping and cockfighting contests.

1. DUELLING (1906 - 1912)


We know what you’re thinking, but no, in 1906 Olympic athletes did not get to shoot each other. Instead marksmen fired at “mannequins dressed in frock coats.” I am not making that up. Doesn’t really qualify as a “duel” per se, but “dummy target practice” just doesn’t sound very sporty.

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