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Inspirational music blaring from your TV? Talking heads swaddled in thick coats and scarves? Athletes in skin-tight body suits and over-sized goggles? Yep, it’s the Winter Olympics once again, taking place right now in Vancouver, Canada.

Hours upon hours of televised figure skating, skiing, skateboarding, mogul jumping
and other square-jawed popular sports are happening before our eyes; but we are wondering, what about those unheralded events that don’t make primetime? After decades and decades of Olympic glory, who remembers the odd, “different,” or just plain stupid events that got cut from the program through the years (or should have)?

In no particular order, here are the Dish picks for the 10 wackiest Olympic events ever…..
1. Solo Synchronized Swimming (1984-1992) – You read that right: Solo Synchronized Swimming; the question of how, exactly, to judge how well one person can synchronize with himself was never really answered. While many other events on this list can be forgiven for being a one-time mistake, this oxymoronic stinker bored people for three consecutive Olympics.

2. Curling (1924, 2006- ) – Created in Scotland, mastered in Canada, ignored everywhere else; this sport was made official again in 2006 after a brief 82 year hiatus. It involves sliding rounded stones of granite down an icy corridor to stop on a giant target. Not so weird, right? It gets better; after the stones are released two other teammates use brooms to furiously scrub the ice in front of its path like over-caffeinated high school janitors. Besides giving the ice that fresh, clean feeling, it’s supposed to help the team control the speed of the stones.

3. Pigeon Racing (1900) – Horses? Of course. Dogs even. Turtles and frogs just for fun? Whatever floats your boat. But pigeons? Never mind how you’re supposed to get a pigeon to go around a racecourse, what about the inherent hazards of letting a flock of pigeons fly over crowds of people? No mystery here as to why this wasn’t picked up for the 1904 Olympics.

4. Skijoring (1928) – Long before the Scandinavian countries blessed the world with the swan-wearing Bjork, Nordic Tracks, and Bikini Teams, they offered us their sport of Skijoring. The world said “no thanks” to the sport, which featured racing skiers towed by dogs and horses.

5. Ski Cross (2010-) – Take a guy, put him on two skinny pieces of waxed fiberglass, give him two long sharp poles, and send him down a snowy forested hill at speeds most people don’t experience outside of the interstate. Sounds dangerous enough, right? Ok, now imagine sending four people at a time careening down the same hillside; that’s Ski-Cross.

6. Kabaddi (1936) – Many noble Olympic traditions got their start at the 1936 Berlin games: The Torch Run, the Parade of Nations, and Kabaddi. Actually, scratch that last one; Kabaddi didn’t make it past that year. Two teams, each on one side of the field, send one person at a time to tag, wrestle, and generally harass the other team’s members for points. The catch? They have to hold their breath the whole time. While teams of blue-faced men playing tag sounds entertaining to me, it wasn't good enough for another round of Olympic glory.

7. Rope Climb (1896-1932) – While most of us only know rope climbing as one of those things we couldn’t do in gym class, around the turn of the century being a speedy rope-a-dope could earn you a spot in Olympic history. The thigh-burning event was cancelled after the IOC caught some athletes trying to sneak out during 5th period. I think I speak for everyone who ever wriggled helplessly two feet in the air when I say “good riddance.”

8. Skeleton (1928, 1948, 2002- ) – Ok, so we have luge, doubles luge, 2 person bobsledding, and 4 person bobsledding. Apparently, that’s still not enough sledding. So starting in 2002 the good folks on the Olympic Committee revived the Skeleton. Unfortunately, this has little to do with the occult or zombies; instead it’s like luge, except on your stomach and with the athlete’s dental work out in front. Like ski-cross, it’s another event in the tradition of taking something dangerous (sledding feet-first at 90 mph) and making it just a little more so (sledding head-first at 90 mph).
 9. Greek Navy 100m Swim (1896) – Ah Greece, not only the country that started the ancient Olympic games, but also the epicenter of learning and culture for Western Civilization. Maybe that’s how they got away with creating an event open only to men in their Navy. Needless to say, they swept all three medals in this event. So, why was Canada’s idea for the “Canadian Mountie Long Jump” rejected for this year’s Olympics?

10. Biathlon (1960-) – Like Skijoring, this sport started out as a Scandinavian military exercise. Unlike skijoring, it’s still around and a lot less fun to say. Biathlon, sadly, is not a triathlon for impatient people; it’s skiing and shooting in one mind-numbing combination. And if you’re picturing a James Bond-type event with athletes racing down hillsides mowing down targets with dual-fisted Uzis, you are way off. Think Dick Cheney hunting pheasant while cross country skiing. Yeah… No one’s going to accuse Biathlon of earning its Olympic cred by being exciting. / Issue 117 - September 2018
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