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Pistol duelling? Here are the 10 weirdest Olympic sports of all time

Tug of war, live pigeon shooting and club swimming are among the niche sports that feature.

Tug of War was once an Olympic sport.
Tug of War was once an Olympic sport.
Image: Business Insider

Reproduced with permission from Business Insider

AS THE OLYMPIC torch struggles to find its way to London, the world waits anxiously for the Summer Olympic Games to begin.

The London 2012 games should be one for the ages, with huge rivalries and showdowns soon to be settled.

Throughout the history of the Olympics, though, there were several events that haven’t really garnered much excitement from spectators or competitors alike.

Simply put, the International Olympic Committee approved some sports that were too violent, too uncompetitive, or just plain stupid.

From Tug of War to Live Pigeon Shooting, take a look at the 10 weirdest sports in Olympic history.

10. Swimming Obstacle Race

The 200-meter Swimming Obstacle Race made the Olympic sport cut only once in the 1900 Summer Games in Paris with Australian Fred Lane taking home the gold. Lane and his fellow competitors had to deal with three obstacles throughout the race.

First, the swimmers had to climb over a pole. Then, they had to make their way over a row of boats. And, as the final obstacle, the competitors had to swim under another row of boats before crossing the finish line.

We wonder how Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte would fare in this Swimming Obstacle Race if it existed today.


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9. Tug of War

Tug of War was a track and field Olympic sport in the 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920 games.

This grade school game consisted of teams of eight on each side of the rope. To win, one team had to pull its opposition six feet — or, if the five-minute time limit had expired, the team which pulled its opponents the furthest would receive the victory.

The most controversial tug of war match occurred in the 1908 games, when Great Britain took home the gold despite protests from the US that the Brits wore illegal footwear.


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8. Tandem Bicycle Sprint

Making its Olympic debut in 1906, the Tandem Bicycle Sprint was axed after the 1972 games, which saw the tandem of Vladimir Semenets and Igor Tselovalnikov winning gold for team USSR.

The competition consists of two-man teams racing on two-seater bicycles. The first team to cross the finish line of the 2,000-meter course wins the race.

Maybe there were just too many crashes for Olympic viewers to handle?


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7. Club Swinging

Club Swinging made the cut as an Olympic sport during the 1904 and 1932 Summer Games.

Club swingers whirled around bowling pin-shaped clubs quickly around their body and head with routines similar to those of modern day rhythmic gymnastics. American George Roth won the gold medal during the 1932 games.

From the Guardian: “It was the Great Depression and Roth was unemployed and hungry. Yet he won gold. Seconds after being awarded his medal in front of 60,000 spectators, he walked out of the stadium in Los Angeles and hitchhiked home.”

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6. Race Walking

Race Walking made its Olympic debut in the 1904 Summer games in St Louis, and it lives on as one of the strangest, yet most captivating Olympic sports.

According to USA Track & Field rules:

“Race walking differs from running in that it requires the competitor to maintain contact with the ground and straighten their front knee when the foot makes contact with the ground, keeping it straightened until the knee passes under the body.”

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5. Solo Synchronised Swimming

For some reason, Solo Synchronised Swimming was an official Olympic sport in the 1984, 1988, and 1992 games.

When you think of synchronised swimming, you normally think of how well swimmers coordinate their moves with each other. Sounds pretty difficult to judge how a single swimmer synchronises her moves with non-existent swimmates.

However, solo synchronised swimmers are technically judged on how well they dance/swim to their selected music. Whatever the case, Solo Synchronised Swimming was scrapped after 1992 and never heard from again.


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4. Pistol Duelling

The Pistol Duelling event was twice an Olympic event — once during the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens and another time during the 1912 Stockholm Games.

Rather than having competitors fire pistols at each other, though, competitors shot at frock coat-adorned mannequins with targets painted on its chests.

Leon Moreaux of France won the gold in the 20-meter competition, and Konstantinos Skarlatos took home the gold for Greece in the 30-meter event.


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3. Rope Climb

The Rope Climb made its Olympic debut in the 1896 Athens Summer Games.

Climbers had to shimmy up a 14-metre-long (or, just under 46 feet in length) rope, and they were judged based on time and style. Greek Nikolaos Andriakopoulos took home the gold in the first-ever Olympic Rope Climbing event.

In later games, Olympic officials would judge rope climbers based solely on their time, and not style. The Rope Climb was last an Olympic event in the 1932 Summer games in Los Angeles.


Maybe people would care if kittens competed in the Rope Climb event

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2. Plunge For Distance (Diving)

The Plunge for Distance diving event lasted through only the 1904 Summer Olympics in St Louis. The event basically consisted of swimmers diving into the pool and staying motionless in the water for one minute. The divers weren’t allowed to propel themselves while in the water. Whoever went the furthest through the water won the event.

During the 1904 games, all five Plunge for Distance diving contestants came from the US. We imagine this qualifies as one of the least exciting competitions in Olympic history.


YouTube credit: MSUswim

1. Live Pigeon Shooting

The goal of the Live Pigeon Shooting event was quite self-explanatory: to shoot (and kill) as many pigeons as possible.

Live Pigeon Shooting made its first and only Olympic showing in the 1900 Summer games in Paris. Belgian Leon de Lunden won the gold medal with 21 downed birds. A total of 300 birds were killed during the event.

The 1900 Paris games stand as the only Olympic games in which animals were killed for sport.


The Olympics have moved on from live pigeons to clay pigeons

Read: London 2012: These photos of athletes getting ready for the Olympics will give you goosebumps>

Read: Slideshow: Here are 50 essential Twitter accounts to follow ahead of the Olympics>

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