Strangest Olympic Sports Events Ever

olympics symbol

One of the reasons why people might fill their backpack pouches with high-level sportswear and travel to a training camp is to build themselves up for an athletic event.

If they prove to have the physical capabilities and the skills required, they may end up placing well enough in events to qualify for athletic competitions. Prove their worth in these and they could even be part of the Olympic Games.

The Olympics has its origins in Ancient Greece, but the Modern Olympiad began in 1896 in Athens, nearly 2000 years after they last took place there.

Every four years, with the exception of 1916, 1940 and 1944 when the outbreak of war across the world halted it, teams of athletes from around the world would compete in a variety of different events.

Whilst many of these are pure displays of speed, skill, strength or a combination of all three, others are somewhat more unusual such as the Steeplechase, the Crosscountry and Dressage.

Here are some of the oddest events ever to be part of the Olympics.


  • Pigeon Shooting

Whilst there are several target shooting events that have become a standard part of the Olympics to this very day, they have always used targets or clay pigeons.

The reason for this was that in 1900, over 300 birds were slaughtered as part of a live pigeon shooting event with a cash prize for the winner of 20,000 Francs.

It was also the first ever Olympic event with female competitors, occurring slightly before the Croquet event the same year, but protests from animal rights organisations in 1902 led to sweeping bans of sport shooting, and the Olympics had never had a live shooting event again.


  • Plunge For Distance

The 1904 Olympic Games were a mess. Originally meant to take place in Chicago, they ultimately took place in St Louis alongside the 1904 World’s Fair and featured some of the worst events ever seen at an Olympic Games.

Alongside an infamous marathon event that featured deliberate dehydration, doping using strychnine and brandy, and originally featuring a winner who had gotten a lift in a car for a significant length of the event, there were also odd one-offs such as Roque and Plunge For Distance.

Plunge For Distance can be best described as being human Poohsticks. Entrants jumped into the water and then saw how far they could float without moving their bodies.


  • Competitive Art

From 1912 until 1948, there was a range of artistic competitions at the Olympic Games, taking the form of architectural, literary, musical, painting and sculpture contests where the art pieces needed to be inspired by sports.

As art and architecture naturally take a long time to design, many of the entries were made, submitted and often published long ahead of time. Most infamously, Jan Wils won the Gold Medal for architecture in 1928 for the Olympic Stadium that held the competition he won.