The organizers of the 2012 Olympics in London received a lot of flack for getting rid of baseball and softball as sanctioned events. They did, however, introduce women’s boxing with five weight classifications. Sports gaining and losing popularity are nothing new for the Olympics, however, as different disciplines are adopted or dropped depending on such issues as universality, practicality and politics.
Along the way, there have been some pretty strange events offered at the Olympics. Croquet, for example, the quaint backyard family game played with wooden balls and mallets, apparently was at the height of its popularity in Europe in the late 1800’s and managed to get Olympic sanctioning at the 1900 Olympics in Paris. Ultimately, however, there were only four teams, all from France. They managed to attract just one spectator; who was reported to be “an Englishman”.
The 1900 Paris Olympics were also the site of a first. Rather than use clay pigeons for shooting events, the organizers decided to go with real pigeons. Over 300 birds were killed during the slaughter. The clay targets were reintroduced in 1904.
One event that they may wish to consider reinstating appeared in five Olympics in the early 1900’s. The sport was “Tug of War” complete with a sloppy mud-hole in the middle of the field of battle. Now that would make great TV!
Other events that have made it to the Olympics then fell out of favour include Jeu de Paume, a sort of cross between handball and tennis, Lacrosse, Pelote Bisque, which is a type of Spanish handball, polo, and motorboat racing.
The 1992 Olympics was the last year to feature the winner of the “Head Scratcher” award for oddity in an event; Solo Synchronized Swimming. The sport, which sounds like a Monty Python skit (remember cross-country wrestling?) was first featured in the 1984 games in Los Angeles.
Looking ahead, the International Olympic committee has already agreed to include golf and rugby sevens in 2016. They had considered for 2012 such sports as in-line skating events, karate and squash but didn’t get requisite two-thirds of the membership to support the new sports.