Pelota, glima and pigeon shooting: 9 of the most unusual sports in Olympic history

Breakdancing, surfing, rock climbing – more and more “free” sports are included in the Olympic program. However, the organizers have been experimenting with competitions since the time of Coubertin. They remembered sports from the history of the games, which today seem strange, to say the least.

1. The Basque pelota

Pelota is a kind of squash, still popular among the Basques. The rules are as follows: the player, aka pelotari, throws the ball with his hand or hit it with a racket, trying to hit the wall at the opposite end of the field. The opponent must kick the ball from the air or after the first hit on the court. The ball is missed – the point goes to the opponent.

No kidding battle between the two teams has unfolded only once in the Olympics. In 1900, in Paris, the Spaniards beat the French in a single match. After that, pelota appeared three more times in the Olympics program, but only as a demonstration sport.

2. Lacrosse

In this team sport, players attempt to throw a rubber ball into an opponent’s goal using clubs that resemble bowflies or racquets. The game, which resembles lacrosse, in ancient times existed among the Indians who inhabited the territory of modern Canada.

The first Olympic lacrosse competitions were held in St. Louis in 1904. So as not to compromise on their debut, the Canadians took it upon themselves to field two teams against their only competition, America’s national team. The Canadian athletes took gold and bronze, and in 1908 they sealed their success with a confident victory over Great Britain. Canada went down in Olympic history as the unbeaten leader in world lacrosse, because there was no other competition in that discipline.

3. Rocky

St. Louis turned out to be rich in competition in little-known sports. Rocky is the American equivalent of croquet, a bizarre mixture of miniature golf and billiards.

Rocky was played under the flag of the Olympics in 1904 for the first and last time. As a result, the only champion was American Charles Jacobs, with Smith Streeter taking second place and Charles Brown taking bronze.

4. Rackets

In 1908, the British, as hosts of the Olympics, introduced their national version of tennis – racquet sports. Seven Britons competed for two sets of medals in singles and doubles. Evan Noel won the singles title and Wayne Pennell and John Astor won the doubles title. Perhaps racquetball did not impress the organizers and fans of the Olympics, because it never again appeared in the program of the Games.

5. Jeux-de-pom 

This old French sport can be called the ancestor of tennis, handball and squash. Players throw a ball with rackets over a rope, stretched at a meter height. You can play one-on-one or in teams of two, four or six.

Jouffe de Pom made a splash in the games in 1908, a little glitter demonstration in 1928, and then virtually disappeared into oblivion. Ironically, at the only official Jude de Pom competitions in the history of the Olympic Games, the French did not win a medal. In 1908, all medals were divided between the Americans and the English.

6. Glima

Glima is a kind of traditional Nordic wrestling. It dates back to the Viking Age and has survived to this day, and in Iceland has even become the national sport.

The main task of a wrestler is to balance an opponent and throw him or her to the ground, using slow dance moves. At the same time the rivals are holding each other by the pants and hitting with hands or feet athletes are strictly prohibited. This rather intellectual wrestling demonstration took place in 1912 during the Stockholm Olympics.

7. Pigeon Shooting

A fierce experiment was carried out at the 1900 Paris games. The shooters used live birds as targets. Then zealous “athletes” shot about 400 pigeons.

The most productive was the Belgian Leon de Lunden, who killed 21 pigeons. Luckily, the society was outraged by such bloodthirstiness of the Olympic organizers and there were no more competitions in the similar discipline.

8. Kabaddi

Kabaddi is a kind of wrestling, much loved in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran. To the untrained person, the match may seem like a merry bacchanalia without rules: everyone is running after each other, trying to knock the opponent to the ground and shouting “Kabaddi! Kabaddi!” However, if you look closely, the tactics of the game become clear.

Teams are placed on opposite sides of the field and take turns directing one player each to the opponent’s half. The athlete must have time to touch as many opponents as possible. Points are awarded for each player on the opposing team who is touched. But this happens under one condition: the athlete could not be defeated and he returned to his half of the court. Kabaddi was brought to the Berlin Olympics in 1936 as a demonstration sport, but did not catch on at the big games.

9. Tug of War

It’s hard to believe, but before it finally moved to high school athletics, rope was a respected tool among athletes. Rope pulling first appeared in the 1900 Olympics and has been part of the competition four more times since.

Great Britain has won twice: rumor has it that the British were the first to think of wearing boots with iron spikes. One gold medal each went to Sweden, the United States, and the so-called mixed team.