Everyone knows the 100m, the high jump and the marathon, but less people are aware of the Je de Paume or Solo Synchronized Swimming. The history of the Olympic Games has seen many unusual sports that have since been discontinued. Some are retired for particular Games, only to be revived in subsequent events. For example, golf and rugby sevens will be reinstated in Brazil in 2016.
Some get adapted, with windsurfing being replaced by kite surfing for 2016. Others events, however, didn’t survive the early amateur days of the Olympics, or were only held as exhibition contests for a particular country. Some more recent events also managed to hold onto their Olympic status, even when seeming a bit unusual. These somewhat bizarre events include:
Synchronized swimming is generally understood to involve a group of people being synchronized with each other. Which makes the solo synchronised swimming event a strange creation, but one that persisted at the Games from 1984-1992? In theory, the synchronisation was between the swimmer and the music. In practice, however, the Olympic organizers eventually realised that it was a bit silly, and solo synchronised swimming was not revived after the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
The early Olympics had little worries about harming animals, and the 1900 Paris Olympics included live pigeon shooting. The inclusion of pigeon shooting made sense, at least in the sense that it was a recognised amateur field sport and something that rewarded accuracy. Leon de Lunden of Belgium won the first Gold Medal in the event, which was discontinued soon after. This decision was at least partly due to the amount of blood and remains that had to be cleared off the field after each event.
Not technically an event due to being part of a long Olympic tradition of exhibition sports by host countries, Finnish baseball was still notable as an unusual sport that was demonstrated at the 1952 Helsinki Games. While similar to North American baseball, Finnish baseball, or pesis, involves vertical pitching and more prepared plays. With pitches easier to hit due to
vertical pitching, the game is more concerned with tactics and accuracy.
A line of men fighting over a rope was a common sight at the Olympics from 1900 to 1920. The sport was well established as an amateur event, with the US, Britain and Sweden particularly leading the world for the sport, which has a long tradition around the world. However, like jeu de paume, the tug of war gradually became a relic of the Olympics’ early amateur roots, which were more likely to incorporate events that became archaic. However, a Tug of War International Federation, and an English Tug of War Association still exist, and there were calls to reinstate the event for 2012.
Last held in 1908, je de paume has a long tradition as a court game. Similar to tennis, the game involves using hands, rather than racquets when playing over a net. The game can be traced to the 17th and 18th centuries, and was installed as an important sport for thee early Games. The 1908 London Olympics version of the event was contested by Britain and the
United States, with the American Jay Gould II taking a gold medal. Like many sports, je de paume was gradually made redundant by more popular versions of the same game, in this case tennis.
Do you think they should bring any of these events back? Let us know in the comments!