Didn’t that go by fast? It seems like such a huge amount of effort and expense for a couple of weeks, but hey, maybe it’s okay if the world has a party. There’s always someone who’ll say, the money could have been used better elsewhere or elsehow.
So, as we bid farewell to the Girl From Ipanema and watch sadly as the Olympic flag is lowered in the land of the Cariocas, let us investigate those lesser sports which were, one time part of this spectacle of sports and are no longer, or were demonstrated and found wanting (perhaps an audience, maybe participants, TV ratings).
Back to Basics:
For the most part, the basics are still there. From a one day event in 684 BC in Greece, the athletes competed in running, jumping and throwing the discus (a really heavy frizbee). Wrestling was on as was boxing, planktration (I’ve heard of becoming stiff as a board but come on) actually it was a form of martial art, combined wrestling and boxing – welcome to ultimate fighting! The more things change… The final exhibitions of athletic prowess were the equestrian events. Question is, who is the athlete, the horse who does all the work, or the human who can manage to hang on? Who gets the oak leaves and who gets the straw? No dressage here folks, it was flat out horse and chariot racing (which is horse racing with a cart attaché – just ask Ben Hur)
Fast forward a few millennia to the modern era. Well it was modern to them – they hadn’t invented world war yet, and the games were re-established in Athens in 1896. They didn’t return to Greece until 2004.
Along the way they managed to include some interesting activities such as:
Bicycle polo (1908): Brilliant. You don’t have to bother the horses, it’s easier to carry a bike around and it lends new meaning to term spokes person (he who had to repair the wheels after wayward polo mallets broke a spoke).
Real pony polo was also dropped from the games after five appearances, 1900 to 1936. I mean come on! Where do they expect the world’s royalty to strut their stuff? Tsk tsk. The last gold medal winner in polo was from Argentina, and you know that gaucho wasn’t just horsing around.
Shooting was big in the Olympics. They even had a Pistol Dueling event in London with wax bullets and tempered glass face-plates. It was hit and miss (wax on, wax off)! It didn’t go away however, it evolved so instead of shooting at each other they created plaster dummies dressed in great coats. Much more sporting and the targets couldn’t duck.
Not to be outdone they invented Shooting Birds on a Log. Artificial birds (big and small) on a log. But that was boring so they came up with Shooting live Pigeons in the Paris games. Messy! After that they went to clay pigeons, no chance of angry birds until the 21st century.
Another variation on the shoot something theme was the Running Deer Shoot which lasted from 1908 until 1948. Don’t worry, no deer were lost in the practice of this sport (probably because nothing runs like a deer). A deer-shaped target which made ten, 75-foot runs, or passes, with the shooters standing 110 yards away, took one or two shots at the target during each 4 second run. What I’d like to know is who drew the short straw and had to run the target across the range?
Another great sport run out of Olympic Town was the Tug of War! What a great sport and one that almost no one would care if the competitors were doping or just dopes. After all give them enough rope and someone will get dragged through the mud. I for one, am pulling for a return of that event.
Here’s a great one. Newsflash – Solo Synchronized Swimming dropped from the 1984 Los Angeles games. NO! HOW COULD THEY? Are they kidding? Solo Synchronized Swimming? That’s almost as goofy as making Chess an Olympic sport.
Hold on…they’re considering it for the Tokyo Olympics. I guess it’s time to call for the cheque, mate.