Olympic sports that aren’t so Olympic anymore
July 25, 2012 by Marcus Michelson
YAKIMA, Wash. — Only three sports have the honor of having been included in every Summer Olympics: athletics (track and field), artistic gymnastics and, of course, fencing.
Some sports missed only one or two Olympiad, like track cycling and rowing.
Others had only limited shots at glory. Here is a look at five of the lesser-known discontinued Summer Olympic sports.
Water motorsports (1908)
Yup. Olympic gold medals were awarded for powerboat racing. Three of them as a matter of fact; one for each of three classifications. In each class, multiple boats entered, but only one finished, so if someone’s trying to sell you a powerboating silver or bronze medal, you may want to pass on it.
Tug of War (1900-20)
It hasn’t always been just for elementary school field day or “Battle of the Network Stars,” tug of war was on the Olympic schedule for six games (including the 1906 Athens games, which have since been downgraded to non-Olympic status). Early on, it was contested by club teams, so one nation could win all three medals (as the U.S. did in 1904 and the United Kingdom did in 1908).
Nothing ruins a Fourth of July party quite like sending your cousin’s ball into the woods four times during a backyard game. Maybe the same thing happened the only time Croquet was included in Paris. France, by the way, won all seven medals awarded. It was replaced by an American version called “Roque” in 1904 and then discontinued.
Basque Pelota (1900)
This sport, which is a predecessor to Jai Alai, was an official sport at the apparently very experimental Paris games. It returned as a demonstration sport in 1924, 1968 and 1992.
Didn’t know cricket was an Olympic sport? Neither did the teams who won the gold and silver medals. According to a 2008 story, an English club team that was touring France defeated a “French” team made up of mostly expatriate Brits. They then went on with their tour. 12 years later, they were retroactively declared Olympic champions.
Other sports that didn’t make a lasting Olympic impression include:
Rackets (1908): Similar to squash.
Jeu de Paume (1908): A predecessor to the modern game of tennis, played indoors. The gold medalist was American Jay Gould II.
Coming back soon to an Olympics near you:
Golf (1900, 1904): It’s returning for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
Rugby union (1900, 1908, 1920, 1924): A form of rugby, called sevens, is also returning in 2016.