Olympics 2021: The unusual Olympic sports that no longer exist

Kit Hoover in a tug of war against United States Olympians.
Tug-of-war is a forgotten event in the Modern Olympics. (Getty Images)

The Olympic Games, which dates back nearly 3000 years, has become the pinnacle of sports across the globe.

From the ancient Games held in Olympia, to the introduction of the modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, there have been a large array of weird, wacky and wild sports that made up the event.

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Across the years there have been many unusual sports that have faded into the archives.

From ancient wrestling to more modern events, here are the some of the unusual sports many people didn't know made up the Olympic Games.

Ancient Olympics

Chariot racing

Chariot racing was seen as one of the events that helped found the Olympic Games in Greece.

The sport was one of the most popular and long-lasting events on the equestrian program in the ancient Games.

Chariot racing immediately grew in popularity and larger coliseums were designed to host the races.

The races were held in arenas called the Hippodrome.

Clisthenes at the Olympic Games. Cleisthenes also Clisthenes or Kleisthenes, tyrant of Sicyon from c600-560 BC, won the Olympics as a chariot racer.
Clisthenes at the Olympic Games. Cleisthenes also Clisthenes or Kleisthenes, tyrant of Sicyon from c600-560 BC, won the Olympics as a chariot racer. (Photo by The Print Collector/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

The race was often across 3.5km to 14km and varied in the number of chariots.

Chariot racing was a high-octane sport, which often led to massive collisions and life-threatening injuries.

All the glory went to the winning owner, which meant the Hippodrome was seen as a symbol of wealth and power.


A combination of boxing and wrestling with very little restrictions, Pankration was a brutal show of masculinity in ancient times.

The only rule was "no biting or gouging", while fighters didn't wear hand-wraps in the bloody show of skills.

The sport became extremely popular and became part of ancient folklore due to the gladiatorial battles.

'Pankration' on an Amphora.
'Pankration' on an Amphora. (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Modern Olympics


One of the more unlikely sports to have taken part as an Olympic event is croquet.

In the early part of the Modern Games, many sporting events were chosen by the host nation.

In 1900, the Olympic Games were held in Paris and croquet made its exciting introduction.

France won all the medals, but all 10 players that signed up were French.

Paul Chard, a member of Northampton Croquet Club plays a jump shot at Old Grammarians sports grounds
Croque was a sport at the Paris Olympics in 1900. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Three women took part in the event, which was the first time since the ancient Games.

However, the sport was not popular among spectators and only a single Englishman travelled from Nice to watch.

The sport did make an appearance in 1904 under the American name Roque, but didn't make it to another Olympic Games.


Competitors train for Tug Of War at Plymouth in England in 1968.
Tug Of War Training At Plymouth In England in 1968. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

In the second Modern Olympic Games in 1900, tug-of-war made its reappearance.

A part of the ancient Games, tug-of-war was a sport in the Olympic Games until 1920.

The sport consisted of two teams of eight and the aim was to pull your opponents past a line - normally six-feet away - with a rope.

While no longer an Olympic sport, the activity remains popular around the world.

The team splits into two halves to pull against each other with a rope over a pulley, under the eye of their coach, Sergeant George Hutton.
Competitors train as part of the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Olympic Games, when police teams represented the two countries in the tug-of-war event. (Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)


Also known as 'power boating', the unusual Olympic sport consisted of three motorboat racing events.

Motorboating took place in the UK at the 1908 Olympics on the waters of Southampton.

But the event didn't go to plan.

Two boats competing on the first day abandoned the race halfway through the first lap, while the only remaining competitor didn't finish because of the poor weather.

The second day saw a boat run aground and the only remaining competitor going unopposed in crossing the line and claiming gold.

The event didn't return to the Games.

Live pigeon shooting

Another very unusual sport for today's standards is pigeon shooting.

While various shooting events take place today, back in 1900 the aim was for competitors to shoot down as many live pigeons as possible.

The sport was described as 'très aristocratique', which means 'very aristocratic'.

The sport didn't take off after nearly 300 birds were killed for the event and the field was reportedly littered with blood and feathers.

Leon de Lunden of Belgium won the event after killing 21 of the 300 birds, but the Olympics don't officially count this as a medal.

It was the only time an animal has been killed on purpose during the Games.

Rope climbing

The sport of climbing a vertical rope was a popular gymnastics event in 1896, 1904, 1906, 1924 and 1932.

Rope climbing was an elite show of upper body strength.


One of the biggest sports in the world, many wouldn't know cricket made its debut in 1900.

The only match ever played at the Olympics, England defeated the French (which was a team made up of mostly Englishmen) comfortably after scoring 117 and 145 for 5, while bowling their opponents out for 78 and 26.

The lack of nations playing cricket at the time, plus the dominance of the English outfit, meant it didn't catch on for future Games.

Cricket has obviously since gone on to become one of the biggest sports in the world.

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