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From tug-of-war to live pigeon shooting, Games have seen it all

Published : Jul 25, 2016, 1:35 am IST
Updated : Jul 25, 2016, 1:35 am IST

If you feel tug-of-war was an odd sport to have featured in the Olympics from 1900 from 1920, what would you think of live pigeon shooting — which cost the lives of around 300 winged targets in 1900

Tug-of-war at the 1908 London Olympics.
 Tug-of-war at the 1908 London Olympics.

If you feel tug-of-war was an odd sport to have featured in the Olympics from 1900 from 1920, what would you think of live pigeon shooting — which cost the lives of around 300 winged targets in 1900 Splattered blood and bruised hands are history now as the Olympic programme, which has seen myriad changes since its humble beginnings in 1896, has done away with gory practices and recreational sports.

Croquet, lacrosse, polo and rope climbing are some of the uncommon sports that were culled from the Olympics after a few years of experimentation. Despite being a popular sport, cricket managed to survive only one edition — 1900. Sports in which propulsion is made with the aid of a motor have no chance of Olympic entry these days but motor boating was part of the Games in 1908.

If equestrian, high jump and long jump in 1900 put a lot of strain on horses, the obstacle swimming race in the same edition pushed human beings to the edge as it involved climbing over a pole and scrambling over a row of boats. Swimming under a row of boats was also part of the event.

In 1904, plunging for distance was an Olympic event. The distance contestants covered under water in 60 seconds or the time of their head breaking the water (whichever is earlier) determined the winner. William Dicky of the US took the spectators’ breath away as he plunged to 19.05 metres to take the gold. Figure skating, a popular Winter Olympics sport now, was on the London Games programme in 1908.

The threat of exclusion has been keeping all Olympic sports on their toes. From being TV friendly to gender inclusive to costs, they have to pay attention to a variety of factors established by the International Olympic Committee. Wrestling, one of the oldest sports, survived a scare as it got back to the programme in 2020 after losing its spot.

Golf and rugby are making a return to the Olympic fold in Rio after 112 and 92 years, respectively. Golf is guaranteed to feature in 2020 but it faces a challenge to retain its place thereafter because the world’s top four golfers — Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy — have decided to skip the Rio Games. The Zika virus is touted to be the reason but an already cramped schedule on the pro circuit and the prestige attached with the Majors may have influenced their decision.

Rugby has been absent since 1924 after enduring an in-and-out run since 1900. Unlike its previous avatar of 15 players a side, rugby will adopt the glitzier and shorter sevens version at Rio, which will feature 28 sports. The executive committee of the IOC has given its nod to include baseball/softball, karate, skate boarding, sports climbing and surfing at the 2020 Olympics. A seal of approval from the IOC session in Rio next month will ensure the inclusion of the five sports in the Tokyo programme for all practical purposes.