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The Weirdest 'Sports' In The History of the Olympics

Updated July 30, 2020 5.9k votes 1.0k voters 48.5k views13 items

List RulesVote up the weird discontinued Olympic events that make you go "Wow, what?!"

The Olympic Games are the ultimate test of athleticism and skill. But when you look back at what events were in the Olympics that are now discontinued, you might think differently. The athletes that competed at the turn of the 20th century weren't much compared to Michael Phelps or Simone Biles. And some events are a far cry from the exciting swimming races or gymnastic events we watch today. Just like how old timey strongmen used to compete in events that by today’s standards look quite silly, some of the retired Olympic events look pretty questionable when contrasted against more modern versions of the Games.

Some of the most bizarre and unusual sports that ended up on the Olympic program look pretty wacky – like ski ballet or solo synchronized swimming. Although these weird events might have been fun to compete in, lack of spectators or lack of athleticism (as in motorboating) usually led to a sport’s Olympic demise. Take a look at these weird competitive events that used to be in the Olympics. Do you think you could compete?

If you enjoyed this list of the dumbest sports in the Olympics, head on over and check out this list of the most boring Summer Olympics sports as well!

  • 5

    Art: Competitive Architecture, Literature, Music, Painting, And Sculpture

    Photo: Jean Jacoby / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    At every Olympics between 1912 and 1948, sporting events weren't the only kind of competition. Artists competed in artistic events that included five categories: architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture. The artwork was required to fit the sports theme of the Olympics, and it often depicted sporting events, while the architects designed mostly sports venues. The only American to medal was architect Charles Downing Lay who won silver in the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin for his design “Marine Park in Brooklyn.” Since only amateur artists were allowed to enter the Olympics, the competitions didn't garner much attention from the professional art world. Judging was often inconsistent, and people were more interested in the actual sports, so after 1948, the art competition became an exhibition held concurrently with the Olympic Games. None of the 151 medals won from the art competition are counted towards any country’s medal count, and they have all been removed from Olympic records.

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  • 6

    Ski Ballet: Ice Skating On Downhill Skis

    Video: YouTube

    In the Calgary Winter Olympics in February of 1988 and the Albertville, France, Winter Olympiad in February of 1992, ski ballet was featured as a demonstration sport. In the event, skiers would compete by doing flips, jumps, and ballet-like movements as they skied down a hill in a two-minute freestyle program.

    Ski Ballet looks a lot like ice skating on skis, except not quite as graceful and a lot funnier. Unfortunately, there wasn't much interest in it, and it never became an official Olympic sport. In 1988, Hermann Reitberger of West Germany took first place in the men’s competition, while Christine Ross of France took first place in the women’s event. Americans placed second in both men’s and women’s: Lane Spina (men’s) and Jan Bucher (women’s). 

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  • 7

    Horse Vaulting: Pommel Horse On Real Horses

    Video: YouTube

    The 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium, included an acrobatic equestrian event called vaulting. Equestrian vaulting is a lot like gymnastics on horses. Riders were required to do different variations of jumps onto and from their horse. Only three countries competed: Belgium, France, and Sweden. Belgium won gold and bronze, while France took silver. The event took place on September 11, 1920, and it was the only equestrian vaulting event in Olympic history.

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  • 8

    Croquet: The Event In Which Only France Competed

    Photo: Genghis Smith / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The 1900 Paris Olympic Games saw the debut of croquet in the Olympic program on June 28th. There were four croquet events: one ball singles, two ball singles, doubles, and singles handicap. The French won all of the croquet events because, well, they were the only country to compete in the event. Two French women, Madame Brohy and Mademoiselle Ohnier, competed in croquet with the men, making them the first female Olympians. The sport proved not so popular given that it had only one spectator for the entire event. Due to lack of spectatorship and because the sport had “hardly any pretensions to athleticism,” it was discontinued after 1900.

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