July 12, 2012
-- The removal of baseball from the program at London's 2012 Olympic Games threw many into shock, but it's not the only sport to be dropped from the games' hallowed halls. Everything from rope climbing to hot air ballooning were contested sports from the 1896 to 2012 Summer Games. Read on to learn about the strangest collection of Olympic sports this side of the tug of war rope.
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Tug of War Tug of war has mysterious origins. Thought to be practiced throughout the ancient world, there's evidence of versions of tug of war being played in Egypt, India, Myanmar and Cambodia. The Tug of War Federation of India can trace the game's roots back to the 12th century AD. Today, tug of war might be relegated to field day at your local elementary school, but from 1900 to 1920 it was an Olympic sport. Each country could have multiple teams (or clubs) which meant each country could potentially win multiple medals. In 1904, the United States team won all three medals. After 1920, the game was removed from the Olympic roster and has yet to be reintroduced.
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Jeu de Paume Jeu de Paume is a ball and court game played indoors. In the 1908 Olympic Games, teams of both the United States and Great Britain competed in the sport. The game was established over 250 years ago in France and the name literally translates to "palm game." Jeu de paume had an outdoor version as well. A variety of these palm/racket ball sports have been contested throughout the history of the Olympic Games.
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Glima There are two kinds of sports at the Olympics, those in the program and those played for demonstration. At the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm, one demonstration sport was Glima. The word glima means wrestling or struggle. Glima is Iceland's national sport. The winner is first wrestler to force the other to touch the ground between the elbow and knee. Wrestling has been contested at the Olympic games since the games' inception in 708 BC, but glima made only one appearance -- in the Stockholm Olympics.
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Basque Pelota Basque Pelota is another game using a ball on a divided court. Pelota involves bouncing a hard rubber ball off a wall using either a hand, racket, bat or basket. The game originated in ancient Greece and is still played in parts of Europe and Central and South America -- in the Western Hemisphere it's often known as Jai alai (pronounced: high-lie). The game of Basque pelota was played as a demonstration game during the 1924, 1968 and 2000 Olympic games, but has not been an official part of the games since 1900. It's considered one of the fastest games in the world with the ball (or pelota) leaving the racket at over 180 mph.
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Rope Climbing Like gym class with medals, rope climbing was once a part of the Olympics. It was included as an event within gymnastic sports. The goal was to reach the top as fast as possible, but also to do so in "good style." The competitors began in a seated position and would climb using only their hands and arms. Competitors were judged on time and style, as well as speed. The standard rope length was 25 feet (8 meters), however, in the 1896 Olympic Games the rope was 46 feet (14 meters) long. It was so long, in fact, that most competitors never reached the top.
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Ballooning The 1900 summer games in Paris were full of French sports that often included only French athletes. One of those was hot air ballooning. While the balloons were undoubtedly crowd-pleasing and beautiful; once in the air, hot air balloons aren't exactly athletic, they're subject to the weather around them and the "sport" is rather slow to watch from the ground.
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Croquet and Roque The 1900 and 1904 Olympics had croquet and roque on their programs, respectively. The French's croquet and the American's roque weren't as popular as the International Olympic Committee had hoped. The 1900 Olympics in Paris saw only French competitors, while the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis saw only four competitors from the United States. Before the 1908 Olympic Games, the IOC wiped the sport from contest. Roque and croquet are similar. Croquet is similar to billiards played in a grassy field. While variations exist, the simplest form involves striking a ball with a mallet guiding it through a course of hoops and to a goal. Roque's major difference is it is played on a hard surface.
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