BIG LIST: Olympic 'Games'
Between the rabid excitement over Olympic badminton, dressage, archery and table tennis competitions, most of us won’t be getting much sleep for the next three weeks. But it wasn’t always like this...
Thursday 2 August 2012, 12:02PM
■ Steepleswim: When the Paris Olympics came around at the turn of the century, the modern Games were still in their infancy, and several new ‘events’ managed to sneak in the back door and make fools of themselves on the international dance floor. The ‘obstacle swimming race’ was one such event. It was almost like an ordinary swimming race – only slightly more ‘interesting’, thanks to three bizarre obstacles placed randomly around the course.
First, participants showed off their stripping prowess by climbing a pole and sliding back down. Then they swam out to a flotilla of boats, which they had to climb up on, and then jump off. Then they swam under some boats to the finish line. Of course, no swimming pools at the time were big enough to play a good game of miscellaneous aquatic douchebaggery, so they had to hold the event in the River Seine, which was also the outlet for the Paris sewer system overflow. Nice
■ Dive bomber: Remember when you were a kid and you’d get so excited at the mere thought of a swimming pool you’d just run and jump in as hard as you could? Well, back in 1904 at the St Louis Games, you’d have a shiny medal waiting for you when you came up for air. The ‘plunge for distance dive’ had two simple rules.
1) Jump in the water; and 2) glide under the water as far as possible without moving your arms or legs. So basically long jump, but with more drowning potential, and with less being able to see the athletes competing. Participant’s leaps were measured after either 60 seconds had passed, or once their bodies had broken the surface. No wonder the world plunged into war a decade later if this is what passed as entertainment.
■ Catch 22: Pelota is a game played by people standing facing each other, separated by a wall, throwing a ball back and forth until one competitor finally drops it, making it the only time the childhood game of catch has ever been an Olympic sport. As well as being generally tedious to play unless you’re six years old or have consumed so much LSD that you’ve got the brain function of a six-year-old, the game was also rather region-specific: Pelota is played only in Spain and France.
In 1900, only two teams showed up to the games. The countries? Spain and France, naturally. A single game was played. The score? No one knows: The officials didn’t even bother to show up.
■ Torpedoed: When looking at the list of events, it’s pretty clear the 1900 Olympics were little more than a prank played by the French on the rest of the world. As evidence of that claim: Underwater swimming. Pretty self explanatory, really: competitors swam underwater for a set distance, whoever got there first without breathing wins. And it’s even more boring than what you’re imagining.
After all, with no waterproof cameras in those days, watching the event consisted of staring at a murky river for a few minutes, counting your blessings that you weren’t stuck watching a pelota match.
■ Flying solo: Solo synchronised swimming. It’s actually hard to make any more jokes about this sport, considering the title itself is probably the most spectacularly self-contained joke ever devised.
The sport amazingly continued in two more Olympic games after its debut in 1984, before being dropped after the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Listed reasons for the cut: low spectator appeal, confusing scoring system and the distracting, raucous laughter of the judges as they watched someone put on their serious face and then dance alone in a pool for two minutes.