Friday, May 30, 2008

Care for a few rounds of Glima?

The Olympic games have always had their share of unusual sports. Take the biathlon. I mean, who decided that cross-country skiing and then shooting stuff went together like chocolate and peanut butter?

No matter. Niche as it may be, the biathlon seems to be holding its own in the Olympic games pantheon and doesn't need any boosterism from the likes of me. What I find more interesting are the games that the sporting world's version of natural selection chose not to favor. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the list of Discontinued Olympic sports.

For example, did you know that that cutthroat competition we call croquet made its one and only appearance at the 1900 Summer Olympics? France, with 9 of the 10 entrants, won all the medals.

Or that Tug of War was a staple in every Olympiad between 1900-1920?
Fascinating Factoid: Though not back in the good graces of the Olympic committee yet, there is a Tug of War Federation that seems to have quite a bit of traction (d'oh!) in Europe.

Stranger still are the Demonstration sports. These have never been recognized as part of the official Olympic canon, yet are played more to promote itself and perhaps garner a wider audience for the sport.

It is here that we find such oddballs as Glima, the Icelandic national style of amateur folk wrestling. Hee, folk wrestling. I'm picturing Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie in a no-holds-barred cage match.

Anyway, Glima was given a shot at the big-time in the 1912 Summer games in Stockholm. A couple of the odder rules include

  • It is not permitted to fall down on your opponent or to push him down in a forceful manner, as it is not considered sportsman-like.
and my favorite
  • The opponents are supposed to look across each other's shoulders as much as possible because it is considered proper to wrestle by touch and feel rather than sight.
Just think! If this had Glima thing had caught on, what we know of as professional wrestling (think WWE and RAW), not to mention the entire folding chair industry, would have been devastated.

A few more before we close out that must have been interesting to watch:
Lifesaving (1900), which included the 100m Manikin Carry
Korfball (1920, 1928), a little like basketball, only with a funnier name
Gliding (1936), referring to the unpowered aircraft

Feel free to peruse the entire list of demonstration sports at your leisure. (Thanks to Chris H. for the suggestion. May your Korfball never go flat!)

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