From Art Competitions to Solo Synchronized Swimming: Quirky Olympics

The Olympic Games have a long and fascinating history, filled with various sports and events. While the modern Olympics showcase popular and well-known athletic disciplines like track and field, swimming, and gymnastics, there have been several unusual and quirky sports included in the Games throughout time.

Art Competitions

One of the most curious additions to the Olympics was the inclusion of art competitions. From 1912 to 1948, medals were awarded for categories such as painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, and music. This unique amalgamation of art and sports aimed to celebrate the creative prowess of athletes beyond physical abilities. However, the subjective nature of art led to controversies and disagreements about judging, which eventually led to the removal of art competitions from the Olympic program.

Solo Synchronized Swimming

Synchronized swimming is a graceful and visually stunning team sport that combines swimming, dance, and gymnastics. However, in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, a solo synchronized swimming event was introduced for the first time. This sport required individual athletes to perform complex routines synchronized to music, showcasing their flexibility, artistic expression, and underwater skills. While it was a captivating display, the event was removed from subsequent Olympics due to concerns about the limited number of participants and its classification as a solo sport rather than a team endeavor.

Tug of War

Back in the early 1900s, the tug of war was a sport included in multiple Olympic Games. Consisting of teams pulling on opposite ends of a rope, the objective was to drag the other team a specified distance to claim victory. This game of strength and strategy provided an entertaining spectacle for spectators. However, the discontinuation of the sport was primarily due to a lack of standardized rules and disagreements regarding equipment usage.

Pistol Dueling

While it may sound straight out of a western movie, pistol dueling was a real event in the 1906 Intercalated Games held in Athens. Participants were required to shoot at mannequins dressed as soldiers, recreating a duel scenario. The targets were placed 20 meters away, and points were awarded based on accuracy. However, due to safety concerns and changing societal perceptions about violence, pistol dueling was quickly removed from future Olympic programs.


Roque, a variation of croquet, was included in the 1904 St. Louis Olympics. Played on a hard court, the sport required participants to hit balls through wickets using wooden mallets. While initially intended to rival traditional croquet as a popular game, it failed to capture significant attention and was eventually dropped from the Olympic schedule.

Pigeon Shooting

In the early 1900s, live pigeon shooting was considered an Olympic sport. Participants aimed to shoot down as many pigeons as possible within a specific time frame. Thousands of pigeons were released, and whoever managed to eliminate the most birds emerged victorious. As public outcry against the inhumane treatment of animals grew, pigeon shooting was discontinued after the 1900 Paris Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games have continuously evolved to encompass a wide range of athletic disciplines, but not every sport stood the test of time. From art competitions to solo synchronized swimming, pistol dueling to pigeon shooting, these quirky events reflect the diverse and fascinating history of the Olympics. While some sports were discontinued due to controversy, lack of popularity, or societal changes, they serve as a reminder of the ever-evolving nature of the world's greatest sporting event.