Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Strange Olympic Sports

olympic shooting pigeonsEven though the London 2012 Opening Ceremonies are not until Friday, preliminary rounds in some sports like soccer are starting today. As such, Dogs & Jeans will begin it’s odyssey of Daily Olympic Blogging today. CNN has published a list of the 10 Strangest Events in historical Olympic competition, but they have not considered all of them. Along with rope climbing and live pigeon shooting, the CNN article has overlooked several other bizarre events from the past:


Equestrian Diving: The Belgians are great horse people, so it was only fitting that when hosting the 1920 Games, Olympic organizers tried to accommodate as many horse-related events as possible. While equestrian golf and equestrian sailing were ultimately discarded, equestrian diving did receive approval for competition. Sadly the event was a dismal failure as venue planners neglected to include a suitable method for getting the horse to the top of the platform. In the end, only 2 riders were able to coax their horses up the ladder with only one entering the water while still mounted. As a footnote, German officials tried to re-instate the event in the 1936 Berlin Games but more out of a cruel curiosity than a spirit of competition.


Synchronized Boxing: As part of the post-1984 synchro craze, few sports were safe from adding the element of coordinated completion. Synchronized boxing made its brief appearance in the 1988 Seoul Olympic games. Medals were awarded for synchronization with both an opponent and with music.


Full Contact Rowing: Rowing has been a staple of Olympic competition since 1900 and remains one of the defining sports of the games. At the 1960 Rome Games, an effort was made to increase the spectator interest in the races by allowing the coxswains to use an additional oar to impede, interfere or disable other boats. Competition was halted after only three events when it became clear that without the requirement for all oarsmen to wear helmets, the clubbing was too dangerous.


Team Knitting: Attempts to include more “artistic” events in the 1952 Helsinki Games. Painting, sculpture and decoupage were all rejected as being too subjective, however, team knitting qualified based on the ability of judges to actually measure the production of the team. Medals were awarded in several categories including Scarves, Sweaters and Toilet Paper Roll Covers. The success of this event was marred by the disqualification of the USSR team for “enhanced needles”. The Team knitting was removed from completion for subsequent games but the controversy was only the first of many for the Soviets.


Running Backwards: For years, track and field athletes have complained that swimmers are able to win more medals by swimming the same distances but in different ways (front crawl, breast stroke, back stroke and butterfly). After years of protests, many of the track events added a “running backwards” element during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Medals were awarded in the 100m, 200m, 400m and the 4x100m relay. It is not clear why these backwards events were never held again, but a small but vocal lobby continues to petition to have them re-instated along with hopping and crawling events.

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