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11 Bizarre, Discontinued Olympic Sports to Try with Your Kids

In its infinite wisdom, the International Olympic Committee has, over the years, discontinued some, um, “sports” that have tremendous spectator appeal.

Swimming Obstacle Race, for example, would probably get huge television ratings. Especially if a few Wipe Out-style elements were added.

Here are eleven quirky summer sports that have been discontinued by the Olympics, that will totally be revived in my own backyard this summer. A few will need some minor improvements; Lightsaber Swinging is a little more appealing than boring old Club Swinging, I think. Plus, we actually have lightsabers on hand. We do not seem to have any bowling pin-looking things lying around.

And some, of course, will need to be adapted. We don’t have the River Seine for our Swimming Obstacle course, unfortunately. Instead, just dump every single pool toy you have into the pool. Voila!


  • Solo Synchronized Swimming 1 of 11
    Solo Synchronized Swimming
    Solo Synchronized Swimming was held in 1984, 1988, and 1992. Apparently it took three consecutive Olympics before organizers realized that when you're solo, you're not synchronized with anyone. For home use, solo synch probably involves less screaming of "NO! YOU'RE LATE ON YOUR KICK!" between siblings. Bonus: less chance of kids whacking each other in the face.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Rope Climbing 2 of 11
    Rope Climbing
    Rope Climb was held in 1896, 1904, 1906, 1924, and 1932. Exactly the traumatic event you remember from gym class. First one up and down the rope without a thigh burn wins!

    (Photo Credit: Vintage Ad)
  • Swimming Obstacle Race 3 of 11
    Swimming Obstacle Race
    Swimming Obstacle Race was only held in 1900. It was held in the River Seine, so swimmers had to contend with the current on top of managing a bunch of stuff in their way. Competitors had to climb over a pole, then scramble over a row of boats, and then swim under another row of boats. Why aren't they still doing this? Given the popularity of shows like Wipe Out, it seems like it would have enormous spectator appeal. For home use, just throw every single pool toy in the pool at once.

    (Photo Credit: Almighty Dad)
  • Tug-of-War … Really 4 of 11
    Tug-of-War ... Really
    Tug Of War was a real sport, and was included in the original ancient Olympic games, first being held in 500 BC. The event was also included in the modern Olympics from 1900 to 1920. The tug-of-war contest was between two teams of eight, but you can divide up your friends and family into whatever match seems even. One team had to pull the other six feet along in order to win. If after 5 minutes no team had done this, the team which had pulled the most was declared the winner. Why on earth did they stop this event? Who doesn't love to see people fall into mud? And more importantly, whatever happened to Battle of the Network Stars?

    (Photo Credit: YouTube)
  • Dueling (Water) Pistol 5 of 11
    Dueling (Water) Pistol
    Dueling pistol was held twice, in 1906 (at the Intercallated Games - not officially recognized by the IOC) and 1912. This event required competitors to shoot at mannequins dressed in frock coats, because obviously. There was a Bull's eye were on the dummy's throat. That part is really, really creepy, so I suggest you eliminate that element for home use. Plus, who wants to ruin their husband's good frock coat? Instead, just give everybody a Super Soaker and let them go nuts. Many other shooting events have been eliminated over the years, including the Live Pigeon Shoot, which was held once in 1900 and unsurprisingly turned into a heinously disgusting mess. Again, let's skip that one.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Walking 6 of 11
    Walking
    Walking of various distances was included as a "sport" in some form from 1900 to 1952. I'd insert a George Carlin-esque joke here about walking not being a real sport, but I've seen those racewalkers and they can clearly, easily kick my butt. This is a good one for backyard family fun because racewalking always looks awkward and invariably makes you wiggle your bum. Award points for style, not speed.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Hop, Step, Jump. Or maybe just skip. 7 of 11
    Hop, Step, Jump. Or maybe just skip.
    Hop, Step, Jump was one of a handful of "standing jump" events that did not allow for a run-up. The hop, step, jump, also called the "triple jump" was held in 1900 and 1904. The standing high jump, for example, uses a technique that starts with both feet together. It should be pointed out that all of these events were won in 1904 and 1908 by Ray Ewry, who spent most of his childhood in a wheelchair after having polio. These are all great activities for the kids because frankly, nothing tuckers kids out like jumping up and down. If, like me, you're entirely too uncoordinated to manage this, I vote for making "skipping" a famly Olympic sport. Skipping is totally underrated as an adult activity.

    (Photo Credit: iSkip)
  • Club Swinging 8 of 11
    Club Swinging
    Club Swinging was kinda like juggling, except the clubs don't leave the hands. Basically it seems people swung bowling pins around in an attempt to be aesthetically pleasing. Held in 1904 and 1932, club swinging was the forerunner to rhythmic gymnastics. Of course, this will probably be more appealing to the kids if we re-name it "Ninja Sword Swinging" or something. Our family will most likely be incorporating plastic lightsabers into this event.

    (Photo Credit: Mother Nature Network)</i)
  • Underwater Swimming 9 of 11
    Underwater Swimming
    Seriously, this is all my kids want to do anyway. A 60-meter underwater swimming race was held in 1900, which apparently had the most awesome games ever. Participants didn't have to remain underwater for the entire distance; they were awarded two points for each meter swum underwater and one point for each meter swum above. Of course, underwater races didn't allow for much spectator appeal at the time. Let's hope that with the advent of underwater cameras, this event will come back. In the meantime, my kids are also big fans of seeing who can scream the loudest underwater.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Jeu de Paume, Which Is Apparently A Real Thing 10 of 11
    Jeu de Paume, Which Is Apparently A Real Thing
    Jeu de Paume, which means "game of the palm," was played only once as an official sport at Olympic level, in 1908. The game is like squash but using your hands instead of a racket to strike the ball. Um, so it's basically tennis without a racket, or volleyball with a tennis ball instead of a volleyball? Totally sounds like something we would have made up in my neighborhood as kids.

    "Okay, so we've got a birdie and a waffle bat and a couch cushion. I've got an idea for a game!"

    Jeu de Paume is also called 'Real Tennis' or 'Court Tennis'. My idea for backyard use of this event is to haul out all those plastic toys from the garage pinwheels, hula hoops, Hippity Hops, and challenge your kids to come up with a game, and then make up a name for it. Extra points if they say the name in a foreign accent, and still more points if they wear a funny hat.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Dinghy Racing 11 of 11
    Dinghy Racing
    Okay, fine, it was really called Firefly Class Yachting. But Dinghy Racing sounds better. This small-boat competition was replaced in the Olympics by the Finn Class, which is far less awesome sounding. For at-home use, use drinking straws to blow plastic bathtub toys across a baby pool, the kitchen sink, or even the tub. Also, be sure to use the word dinghy several times.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

Read more from Joslyn at Babble Pets and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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