The Weirdest Olympic Sports That Thankfully Don’t Exist Anymore

The Olympics honor the passion and intensity of athletes competing for the love of sport and country. It’s also a time to enjoy sports that traditionally don’t get as much attention as the “big four,” baseball, basketball, hockey, and football. But some Olympic sports have been downright weird. Thankfully, the following five Olympic sports aren’t on the docket anymore. 

Live pigeon shooting 

New Olympic sports are added every few years as the games grow and adapt. Some have been present since nearly the beginning of the modern Olympic games. While shooting has been a sport at the Olympics for a long time and remains so to this day, the targets have changed.

These days, clay pigeons are used. There was a time, however, when competitors aimed at living, breathing pigeons. The 1900 Olympics saw the demise of over 300 birds. Thankfully for animal lovers, this only occurred during one summer games before it was discontinued. 

Tug of war 

Basically, this “sport” involves two groups of people pulling on a rope across from one another. It’s a basic test of strength, and while refreshing in its simplicity — you truly learn which group is strongest — it’s not particularly fun to watch. 

Apparently Olympic organizers disagreed, as it was an Olympic event from 1900 to 1920. One interesting note about the sport’s time at the Olympics? The first black athlete to participate in the Olympic games, Constantin Henriquez de Zubiera, was on the French tug of war team in 1900. 

Pistol dueling

Though not recognized by the International Olympic Committee, pistol dueling was an accompanying event for the 1906 Olympic games. It capitalized on the dwindling popularity of the sport. Pistol dueling had been all but erased from polite society due to its barbaric nature. Fortunately, people weren’t dueling against each other in this event, only shooting at costumed dummies dressed to look like humans. 

Solo synchronized swimming

A few of the entries on this list are relics of a bygone era. While they were strange sports, their removal from the games represents the Olympics evolving. That’s what makes this one such a head-scratcher. Solo synchronized swimming was part of the Olympics from 1984 to 1992.

While the ability to perform choreographed routines submerged in water is an impressive athletic achievement, the term “synchronized” implies more than one person syncing performances together. That begs the question: How can one synchronize a routine by themselves? 

Horse long jump

Few Olympic events combine grace, athleticism, and strength like the long jump. And few represent the Olympics’ pageantry as well as equestrian sports. Both sports, individually, represent some components that make the Olympics great. But combining them? That’s exactly what Olympic organizers tried to do in the 1900 Paris games with the horse long jump

“In Paris, the long and high jump, traditionally contested in athletics, were transposed to the equestrian arena for the first and only time in Olympic history. In the long jump, the initial challenge was to clear a distance of 4.50m, which all 17 competitors managed; however, several then fell by the wayside once the asking distance was increased to 4.90m.” 

One horse, named Extra Dry, was able to clear a jump of 6.10 meters.