The Roar
The Roar


32 days to Rio: The Olympic sports which are now extinct

Tug of war is one of many sports to have been cast aside by the Olympics. (Wikimedia Commons/public domain image)
4th July, 2016

Ever wondered what pigeon shooting and hot air ballooning have in common? No, us neither. But it turns out both were once Olympic sports, and they aren’t the only strange events to have since lost their way.

Here’s a selection of some of the sports which are sadly (or not so sadly, in some cases) no longer with the Olympics today.

We might think of this as more suited to a school athletics carnival than anywhere else, but tug-of-war was actually a fairly long-running Olympic sport, having been held between 1900 and 1920.


It was a casualty of the International Olympic Committee’s decision that every sport needed a global governing body to be a part of the Games.

Pigeon shooting
A fairly self-explanatory sport, it’s hard to get behind this one. Partly because of the extraordinary mess created by the event, and partly because of its needless, chaotic barbarism.

When pigeon shooting was held in 1900, it was fairly disorderly. A flock of birds was simply released en masse and the shooter who killed the most won. That ‘honour’ went to Belgium’s Leon de Lunden, who took down 21 pigeons.

Over 300 of the birds were killed during the event which, unsurprisingly, hasn’t been held since.

Water obstacle course
We assume this was something like a serious version of Wipeout, complete with professional athletes and devoid of James Brayshaw’s commentary.


Sounds good, right?

Admittedly the swimmers were navigating slightly less exciting obstacles than what we see on TV today – they had to climb over a pole and a few boats, then swim under some other boats.

Still, an Australian, Fred Lane, won gold in the event’s only Olympic appearance back in 1900, so it’s safe to say we’re fans of this one.

Solo synchronised swimming
How this event garnered enough support to make its way into the Olympics remains a mystery to many. For the vast majority of people, the oxymoronic name alone would have been enough to stop the idea dead in its tracks.

But the event became a reality for Barcelona 1992 and the results were, well, just odd.

Be sure to follow The Roar as we look back on some of the most memorable moments in Olympic history – be they weird and wacky or brilliant and significant – and count down the days until the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.

The Roar’s countdown to the Rio Olympics

50 days to go: Australia’s first Olympian, Edwin Flack
49 days to go: Brazil capitulate at the 2012 Olympics
48 days to go: Blood in the water during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics
47 days to go: Daniel Carroll, the man who won rugby gold with Australia and America
46 days to go: Margaret Abbott – the golfer who didn’t know she had won gold
45 days to go: Where did all the amateurs go?
44 days to go: Australia’s oarsome foursome
43 days to go: When Korea stood as one
42 Days to go: Oscar Swahn, the oldest Olympian
41 days to go: Edith Bosch – the Olympian not known for her medals
40 days to go: Jane Saville’s heartbreaking Sydney Olympics
39 days to go: Herb Elliot dominates in Rome 1960
38 days to go: Teofilo Stevenson, the boxer who might have beaten Ali
37 days to go: Betty Cuthbert steals the show in Melbourne
36 days to go: Jesse Owens’ heroic performance in Berlin
35 days to go: Eric the Eel steals Sydney’s heart
34 days to go: What happened to Cassius Clay’s gold medal?
33 days to go: Australia’s equestrian brilliance at Barcelona
32 days to go: The Olympic sports which are no longer with us
31 days to go: Debbie Flintoff-King wins on the line
30 days to go: The dominance of basketball’s Dream Team
29 days to go: Nadia Comenaci scores gymnastics’ first-ever perfect score
28 days to go: The man who stopped for a duck
27 days to go: The upset of the Sydney Olympics
26 days to go: Murray Rose’s scintilating Melbourne performance
25 days to go: Greg Louganis’ heroic comeback win
24 days to go: Fencing turns to duelling in Paris
23 days to go: Dawn Fraser’s flag-stealing shenanigans
22 days to go: The most prolific Olympic competitor
21 days to go: Duncan Armstrong’s underdog win in Seoul
20 days to go: Johnny Weissmuller: A brilliant swimmer and Hollywood actor
19 days to go: Majorie Jackson – the Lithgow Flash
18 days to go: Larisa Latynina, the most successful female Olympian
17 days to go: Dimitrios Loundras, the child who won an Olympic medal
16 days to go: Roy Jones Jr is robbed of an Olympic gold
15 days to go: Shane Gould’s superstar performance in Munich
14 days to go: The Kookaburras finally fly to the top of the world
13 days to go: Matthew Mitcham’s historic dive
12 days to go: Even Olympians are prone to the odd fail
11 days to go: Abebe Bikila wins the Olympic marathon running in bare feet
10 days to go: Track cycling’s greatest rivalry
9 days to go: Kieran Perkins’ gold medal from lane eight
8 days to go: Sally Pearson’s awesome run in London
7 days to go: Mark Spitz’ perfect seven gold medals in ’72
6 days to go: Usain Bolt torches the field in Beijing
5 days to go: Michael Klim and Ian Thorpe help smash America’s 4x100m world record like a guitar
4 days to go: Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ defiant black power salute
3 days to go: Michael Phelps – the best to ever grace the Olympics
2 days to go: Cathy Freeman delivers with the weight of a country on her back
1 day to go: Ian Thorpe – Australia’s finest Olympian